COMMENTARY: Once, when we had ethics

As a veteran who served in Vietnam, and as a military journalist who saw the best and worst of our servicemen at war, I must take exception to the meddling of a draft dodger into the military system of justice, discipline, punishment and most of all, the undermining of the military’s code of honor and conduct.

In the history of our military, the values espoused through leadership, national integrity and personal responsibility is what has inspired our men and women to be the most that they can be, and to exemplify the best of America’s ideas and ideals.

It is our military honor that embodies the core values of military service. It is in carrying out, acting upon and living the values of military honor — respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage — that has differentiated and distinguished our men and women in uniform from other times and other wars and other soldiers.

We live in a world at war; a world besieged by the forces of good and evil, both battling the acceptance and tolerance of the brutality, coarseness and mercilessness that plagues the human mind and erodes the human soul.

The idea that our own soldiers pose with enemy corpses, and even bloody body parts of dismembered insurgents on battlefields, arenas of mortal combat and on killing fields across the globe, should tell us all that something has gone wrong.

At what point in our generations of war did we lose our compass and our sight of the light that illuminates the world?

At what precise date and time did we forget the sights and sounds of the atrocities of our past, and the lessons of history and of our hearts?

We should all be outraged that some within our ranks have lost their bearings and direction.

The desecration of enemy dead by posing them as trophies after a hunt is not what America or Americans should applaud or condone. It is a deviation of our core values of honor and of decency.

It is the place of military justice and military courts to attempt to make right this height of brutality and insensitivity. We must not allow the callousness and ruthlessness of war to malign our code of honor and code of conduct, nor the decency of our young men and women who courageously serve our nation.

We are a nation bound by laws and by rules — civilian and military. We are a nation currently at war with ourselves — attempting to decide which path to take. At the very time that our institutions and traditions are disintegrating before us, we must now also decide if we are to allow the dismantling of our military Code of Honor and of Conduct — the very fabric that binds the essence of our character and our humanity.

To allow the dehumanization of our enemy by our own soldiers in uniform by allowing them to photograph them as mere trophies of war would be to dehumanize ourselves and to reopen the gates to the atrocities of our past and to the nightmares that still haunt the minds and hearts of so many.

Let the Code of Honor and the Code of Conduct prevail — like it has for hundreds of years. Let justice take its course.

Mr. President, stay out of it!

Let our military keep its honor.

Let our military move forward without the blemish of dishonor or disgrace.

Mr. President, take care of your “bone spurs” and let our soldiers continue to be led by men of honor and decency and military justice.

Al Garcia lives in Palm Valley.