I recently buried my father, who spent his entire working life as a public servant, including a 30-year span in the Navy (World War II, Korea and Vietnam) and seven years of federal civil service.
He saw his share of action, witnessed some really horrific things, and nearly bought the farm on a number of occasions — even during peacetime. I clearly remember deployments, homecomings and, of course, the many missed family occasions, represented by an empty chair.
In short he was the classic patriot — “My country — right or wrong.”
My father taught me the meaning of public service and the need for one to make continued service and sacrifice for the public good. Our elected officials in Washington have seemed to have forgotten first and foremost that they are public servants who should place the public’s interest above their party’s and their own.
All federal employees, military and civilian, are required to take an oath of office very similar to the version used in Congress: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” Note that federal employees also sign a promise never to strike, which is why President Reagan fired all those air traffic controllers who thought they were so indispensable in 1981.
Because of the current shutdown, I am not able to assist my widowed stepmother in applying for survivors, burial, disability and pension benefits. Even if I was immediately able to help her file for these claims and benefits, it currently takes the Veterans Affairs 220 days to process them.
Part of the reason is because Congress has never provided the VA sufficient resources. This agency is under tremendous pressure as World War II vets are currently dying at the rate of 1,000 per month and the many claims resulting from extended military deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This is a great example — members of Congress failing to perform their duty while sanctimoniously blaming others. Walt Kelly’s Pogo was certainly right: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”