It’s often said that we send other people’s children to war.
By “we,” I mean the U.S. Congress and the elites from academia, business and the media who influence their decisions. With all due respect to these national leaders, few of them will ever know the heavy burden of a military parent.
My husband and I don’t hail from these ranks. We are simple people with a simple parenting philosophy: Expect your children to always do their best, no excuses. We raised our only child to love her country and serve it to the best of her ability. Throughout our daughter’s childhood, we stressed the hard work required of citizens in a functioning democracy and did our best to model our civic duty. We taught her to honor those who served and sacrificed to protect American freedom and to be wary of hollow, saccharin displays of patriotism.
It seems our daughter paid attention to these home civics lessons, after all. At 17, she scrapped the conventional college path and announced her bold goal of attending the U.S. Naval Academy and flying jets like her great-grandfather. Thanks to her smarts, guts and work ethic, she was appointed to the academy’s class of 2020 and selected to start flight school this summer.
No matter how proud and confident a parent is in their child’s decision to serve in uniform, nothing prepares you for that moment when they swear their first oath. In a flash, your baby becomes an adult willing to risk their life so that the rest of us might live free. You see with new clarity, America’s great promise and its many imperfections. You become acutely aware of the delicate trust between the civilian public and defense institutions on which our system of voluntary service depends.
That swearing-in ceremony was my proudest moment as a mom and an American. Never could I have imagined the broken trust and betrayal I would feel four years later.
Like most military families, I have been watching in horror as news outlets report the unthinkable: The Trump administration failed to act on intelligence that Russia put a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to the families of the fallen soldiers thought to be killed by Russian-paid Taliban mercenaries. I stand with them as they call for answers and accountability. I am appalled and heart-broken at the disrespect they’ve been shown by the White House.
Military families are a small and private community. We don’t generally step into the public square, but we do closely watch those public institutions entrusted with what is known as “force protection.” We know that when these institutions break down, all of our loved ones in uniform are at greater risk.
At the top of our list of broken institutions is the U.S. Congress, whose Republicans have shown themselves grossly incapable or unwilling to conduct their constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. They were once a group that military families could count on to strengthen national defense institutions. Now, they sit idly by as President Trump politicizes the military and dismantles the intelligence apparatus meant to protect the troops. Worse, some, such as Florida’s Matt Gaetz and his band of deep-state conspiracists in the House, are busy sowing public distrust in the intelligence community, just like Russia wants.
With the White House virtually unchecked by the Congress these past four years, the Russian-bounty crisis should surprise no one.
In his new role as acting chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Marco Rubio has signaled plans to get tough on Russia. The senator has his work cut out for him, given that the president dismissed the Russia bounty matter as a hoax and says he has no plans to sanction or retaliate.
Rubio’s first order of business should be rebuilding trust with the military and intelligence community. If he wants us to believe he has troops’ backs, he needs to act like it. To start, he must condemn the personal attacks on military leaders and object to the revolving door of unconfirmed, acting directors and secretaries leading key national security agencies. He should fight back when defense funds are redirected to blatantly political purposes. He must legislate to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference and sanction Russia for its escalating aggression. He must affirm our commitment to NATO and call out the president’s erratic and inexplicable withdrawal of troops in Germany.
Most important, Rubio must conduct a thorough investigation into the Russian bounty matter and be straight with the American people about what happened and why.
Carrie Remis founded the Homefront Fidelity Project, a grassroots group of Florida military families working to hold elected officials accountable. She lives in Vero Beach.