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Opinion: Veteran’s betrayal to nation stains all US military veterans

Michael Jarnevic

Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit, a sad, misguided puppet who turned her back on her country and dishonored her service, engaged in a seditious act by storming the US Capital building in a failed coup. Her act will forever besmirch her veteran’s legacy, but, most importantly, tarnishes that of all veterans.

No honor, much less glory, can be found in her demise at the hands of Capital police. She died needlessly and will be regarded not as a patriot, but as a traitor to the nation. I feel no sympathy for her, just as I feel no sympathy for veterans Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing.

As a veteran, I always find it agonizing to write about other veterans who turn to the dark side and engage in nefarious, even criminal activity. Do they not understand that when they engage in unlawfulness, one of the first things media will search for will be: “Were they veterans?”

If so, this will assuredly be in the title of the article and blare: “Ex-Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine Veteran Commits…” Many of us that served take such acts personally and feel an agonizing degree of remorse—not necessarily for the veteran, but because they were a veteran.

I was recently interviewed by a journalist for an article based on a Gallup poll as to why the United States military is regarded as the most trusted public institution in America. In the interview, I recounted my experiences from the 1970s to the 21st Century—Viet Nam to Afghanistan—and how the US military had morphed and ultimately transcended the perception generated by the ‘Nam debacle to become a hallowed establishment.

Prior to the “thank you for your service,” there was the contempt and hostility of the ’70s; the benign indifference of the ’80s; and, finally, the reverential treatment following the Persian Gulf War, which lasts to this day. Americans perceive the US military as a trusted institution and perhaps naively turn a blind eye when its members commit heinous acts.

However, currently serving members and veterans wince and groan when one of our own exhibits egregious behavior and is then identified as a veteran. To us, it soils the uniform and all that it stands for, and makes our service a little less storied and trusted.

What made us regarded as something special, something to be looked up to, maybe even idolized, is that we are put into a category that most Americans revere from the outside looking in, never realizing that we are human and with all the inherent flaws of the human condition … and we make mistakes.

Ashli Babbit—and other veterans and service members—made a deplorable mistake and they will not be forgiven for it; not by the nation or by the veterans’ community. They are not heroes and she is not a martyr.

As a veteran, I would like to find it in my heart to forgive her and to write this off as a disturbed lapse in judgment, but I cannot. Her history shows, distressingly, that this was the culmination of a long, demented descent into what can only be described as fanatical madness. A madness that ultimately ended in a foolish death.

I find it hard to understand what was going through her head at that moment or what she thought would be the outcome. If nothing else, as a former military security police officer, she should have known that facing down fellow cops with weapons drawn would not end well…and it did not.

Michael Jarnevic is a retired US Army sergeant major with 42 years of continuous service in both the USMC and US Army Special Forces. Currently, he is a freelance writer, outdoor lecturer, and environmental activist residing outside of Missoula, Montana.