Integrity (n) :
1.The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
2. The state of being whole and undivided
A night at a local watering hole became a chance encounter that struck me. My wife and I were enjoying drinks and some lite fare when I looked up to see a rather imposing African-American gentleman looking my way. I immediately noticed his hat which sported the insignia of the United States Army. On the brim was the word “Retired”.
I politely nodded to him and pointed to my head to acknowledge his hat. The gesture inspired him to walk our way. I stuck out my hand and he immediately returned the gesture with a very strong and deliberate grip. I thanked him for his service and invited him to sit with us for a moment.
He nodded to his family, who was at the adjacent table and took a seat. There were a few probing questions; given the political nature of this area, it wouldn’t have been the first time that it was assumed that, being a white male in the South, I bore the racist, political bent of so many.
Once it was established that we were of like minds, he opened up more. He told us he was a 20-year veteran, having served in Korea, Bosnia and Afghanistan, attaining the rank of drill sergeant. He told us he had come under fire during combat missions and credited Divine Intervention, rather than his extensive military training for his escaping unscathed.
The conversation drifted to politics. Again, he gingerly touched on the subject, but quickly realized we were of like mind in that respect, as well. He acknowledged that, as a member of the military, he was obligated to follow the orders of whoever was the Commander in Chief. He also acknowledged that he, and many others in the military, found it difficult to follow the orders of this particular Commander.
Aware of his surroundings, a black man in a bar that likely had a few “rednecks” as patrons, he quietly said, “Trump lacks integrity “.
We both acknowledged that all politicians lie, to some extent, but the degree to which Donald Trump manipulated the truth went beyond the day-to-day political rhetoric. He reiterated his comment about integrity, and stated that it went against the very code he swore to when he became a member of the United States military.
We parted, promising to stay in touch (He lives in another state, but his son tends bar at a nearby establishment), but his words still echo in my head -- as well as this question: How many other members of the military share this belief?
Can our military continue to support someone who lacks integrity?