David A. Bryant

Racial tensions have been at the forefront of the news for a while now, but after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit out the national anthem, things really started to get ugly on Facebook and other social media sites.

Most people, I can pretty much ignore. Veterans of all colors had plenty to say, but as they no longer fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they can pretty much say whatever they want to. If I happen to agree, I may “like” their post. If I don’t agree, but can still see their point, I’m probably going to “like” it as well.

Everyone has the right to their opinion — freedom of speech is one of the main rights we all swore an oath to defend.

What concerns me, however, is the troops I know who are still on active duty. I know how detrimental it can be to a unit’s good order and discipline when active-duty service members get involved in racial or political discussions.

Aside from the fact a soldier can be charged for statements made on social media (Articles 88, 89, 91, 133 and 134 of the UCMJ), I worry about the tensions caused between the soldiers themselves. While a soldier may have every right to support Kaepernick’s actions — or to believe the football player’s actions unacceptable — to begin calling each other names and racial slurs (I believe the word moron was the mildest I saw) goes against everything we stand for.

The military has long been the standard set for the rest of the nation to follow, with the Army leading the way in correcting social injustices. The military began the full integration of women and minorities years before the civilian sector, opened up positions for them all and pushed to ensure they were all eventually paid the same amount of money for their rank.

Those of us with a combat deployment or three under our belts know full-well that a soldier’s color, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender is completely meaningless when rounds are going downrange. The only thing we care about is whether that soldier has our six.

But when you start fighting about color and bringing up the “history of my people” with each other, that trust built among soldiers begins to deteriorate. And without trust, a unit in a combat zone is one that will come home in body bags.

Are there issues still going on to this day affecting minorities? Absolutely, and it is a discussion the nation needs to have on a civil basis. Looting, burning and killing each other to “protest” will do nothing but make the situation worse, and as members of the armed services, it is our duty to stand up and show the rest of the nation how that conversation should be done.

Remember — the oath we all took makes us a family with ties as strong as blood. It’s time to act like it.

David A. Bryant is an Army retiree and the military editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at dbryant@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7554.

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