When I was commanding men and women on the battlefield, I never asked what their religious affiliation was. It didn’t matter in war. What matters is the individual next to you is patriotic, capable, and willing to put their life on the line for their country and their unit. Every soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or coastguardsman who serves honorably and pays the ultimate sacrifice should be honored and their family thanked.
Both of our candidates for president have picked fights with and said extremely regrettable things to the families of service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our great nation. As a grateful nation, we cannot allow this to become the norm, and we cannot allow it to go without notice. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should swallow their pride and apologize to the families and service members they have offended. Politics has no role in the military.
I have been to too many funerals. I’ve folded too many flags, and I’ve consoled too many parents, widows, and small children who lost their loved ones. My own daughter is a Navy diver, my son-in-law is a Navy SEAL, and one of their daughters just turned 6 years old. I cannot imagine losing one of them.
My 23 years of service has taught me about what we should be focusing on: how to make sure we don’t have to fold any more flags or console any more families. We need to address the threat that is killing our troops and that is radical Islamic terrorism.
When I fought in Iraq I proudly fought beside Jews, atheists, Catholics, Lutherans, and yes Muslims. We built an American-led coalition of Muslim nations and tribes to defeat tyranny and extremism. We respected each other and defended one another. Going forward it will take the same level of trust and respect to defeat our determined enemy.
Honoring our troops and their families is not a red or a blue issue, it’s a red, white, and blue issue. We should come together and embrace our military and Gold Star families. Use them as an example of what makes us better, not what drives us apart.
United we stand and divided we fall.
Congressman Ryan Zinke
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