Recent events at the Texas border, with the Biden administration threatening to employ federal troops against Texas state officers, are the subject of impassioned conversations in the waiting rooms of our nation’s VA hospitals.
As I sit in the waiting rooms and listen for my name to be called, I often strike up conversations with other veterans who, like myself, follow current events, especially with respect to matters that affect the military. To say that there is a lack of confidence in the current commander-in-chief among the older veterans would be an understatement. When we consider the idea of federal and state law enforcement in conflict, a common question arises: What would we boomer vets do if our commander-in-chief ordered us to use extreme prejudice to force the Texas law enforcement officers to stand down?
I refer to us as ‘boomer vets,’ of which there are two informal classes: Those who fought in the Vietnam War, and the younger guys who enlisted right after the war ended. I was in the latter category, having served from 1979 to 1985. We were among the first enlistees in a decade to serve without being conscripted. We felt we were needed to pick up the fallen standard, having witnessed the shameful mistreatment of our neglected Vietnam veterans, who were called “baby killers” by many upon their return from a war they never wanted.
Veterans from World War II had a saying, “They also serve, those who stand and wait.” Only the volunteer forces of today could understand the length and breadth of that sentiment; it is a call to honor. We felt a patriotic duty to our beloved country, a concept which is rapidly becoming passé in our self-absorbed culture of consumers rather than citizens.
Everyone in the armed forces makes a promise to “…defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We further pledge to “…obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed…” These are sublime words, spoken from the heart by those who wish to preserve the nation we know and love.
To obey and follow the orders of its commander-in-chief and his designates without question is the ultimate duty of any and all who wear the uniform; such discipline and adherence to the chain of command is integral to maintaining a focused armed force capable of repelling an invading force. But we vets are torn when we consider what can only be purposeful dereliction of duty when it comes to defending our borders. We ask each other why would our commander-in-chief knowingly allow our frontlines to be infiltrated by unvetted invaders? Who told the Secretary of Homeland Security to open the borders and keep them open? Could our commander-in-chief actually be guilty of treason?
All other considerations aside, the quintessential questions remain: Are we obliged to follow any order from a man many of us believe to be CIC in name only? Are we duty bound to carry out orders issued by a president who is clearly in the throes of mental decay that makes us question his fitness to command? What would we do if Joe Biden ordered us into an armed conflict with Texas law enforcement agents? The quandary that this unprecedented situation with national implications lays at the feet of everyone in uniform is one that no American military servicemen or women have really had to contemplate since 1861.
Other nations, however, have faced similar situations. Their examples could be a guide to what may go down on the Texas border should the irresistible force of D.C. meet the immovable object of Austin. We have, in fact, seen other militaries defy their presidents when they consider the administration illegitimate or their orders immoral.
I was stationed in the Philippines in the 1980s as the decades-old regime of strongman Ferdinand Marcos was collapsing. Marcos was so desperate to keep power that when the wildly popular, and foreseeable winner of the forthcoming presidential election, Benigno Aquino, returned from exile, Marco’s henchmen brazenly gunned him down on the tarmac of Manila International Airport as he stepped off his plane.
Marcos’ dastardly deed was, in fact, ill-advised as it only inspired the beloved Benigno’s widow, Corey Aquino, to lead the grassroots “People Power Revolution” against the dictator. The People Power Revolution was called the “Bloodless Revolution,” since the downfall of Marcos was achieved without a shot being fired. As the uprising reached its pinnacle, a tense and final standoff ensued when a contingent of Marines with tanks and armored vans was stopped on Ortigas Avenue in Manila by a large group of angry anti-Marcos demonstrators. Nuns held rosaries and knelt in front of the tanks while men and women from all walks of life linked arms together to block the troops. An order to fire did, in fact, come over the secret palace radio frequency from Marcos, but the field officer in charge decided to disobey it. Marcos’ regime was usurped not only by his assassinated rival’s widow but, more importantly, by the Philippine military who refused direct orders to fire on their own citizens.
Fast forward to 2024. We may be headed toward the same scenario as a standoff looms in Texas. And we vets are left to wonder as we wait for our name to be called into the exam room, what if the governor of Texas refuses to back down? Will the commander-in-chief order the National Guard to engage the Texas law enforcement officers with extreme prejudice? Given that Biden, or whoever is actually running the Executive Branch, has already taken on the role of the treacherous Doctor Yueh in “Dune” and has opened up his own country’s defenses to allow an invasion, we tell each other that it’s not that far of a stretch.
We older vets feel a great empathy for our brave men and women who serve under such a destructive commander-in-chief — one who appears so derelict in his duty that he would even consider putting our country in needless jeopardy by potentially triggering a violent face-off between state and federal forces not seen since Fort Sumter.
Most telling, my fellow veterans and I — those with whom I am in contact — agree we would be bound to act like the Philippine field officers, who showed patriotism in the face of despotism, which is what every honorable servicemember would do. The President is our commander-in-chief … until he gives orders that do the very opposite of one of his chief responsibilities which is to protect the U.S. from enemies, foreign and domestic. As such, we would never fire on our own people, despite facing certain court martial. So, in the vaunted halls of the VA hospitals, the almost unanimous vote is: “No, Mr. Biden, I wouldn’t ‘obey the orders of the President,’ even though I swore an oath to do so.”
Sometimes, when our contemporary leaders employ dangerously misguided policies that force us in the military to make a choice between them and the nation conceived by our Founding Fathers, they, in fact, leave those of us who proudly wear the uniform no choice. If we ever do reach that juncture, it should become intuitively evident to all Americans the true meaning of the West Point mantra: Duty, Honor, Country.
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Brian Schaeffer served as a Naval aviator until his honorable discharge in 1985 with the rank of Lieutenant. Lt. Schaeffer has been in both the shipping business and involved in real estate ever since re-entering civilian life. Prior to heading off to Aviation Reserve Officers Corps, he graduated with honors from Indiana University, Bloomington.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.