We are Colorado Guardsmen.
When we joined this organization, we did so because were drawn to serve something far bigger than ourselves.
We're idealists who love our country. When duty calls, we’re there and ready to leave our jobs, and our state – and when necessary, even our nation – in order to help those in need; all the while serving our families and communities here at home.
Our core values – honor, courage, commitment, integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, personal courage, devotion to duty – help make us who we are as Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen. They are the foundation upon which we continue to build one of America’s greatest renewable resources, and the lack of any of these values will break us.
So this Memorial Day, as we serve up the burgers and brats, let's pause for a moment and remember the millions of other servicemembers who came before us. I challenge you to honor them – not just on Memorial Day but every day – by continuing their proud heritage with a simple symbol of respect.
It’s a simple task we all learned from the very start of our military careers: simply wearing our uniforms with pride.
Army Gen. George S. Patton said in 1943, “It is absurd to believe that Soldiers who cannot be made to wear the proper uniform can be induced to move forward in battle. Those who fail to perform their duty by correcting small violations and in enforcing proper conduct are incapable of leading.”
Brash? Yes. Out in left field? Not really.
How many times have you seen someone out of uniform and actually stopped to correct him or her? How many times have you done the same and corrected yourself? Do you have the courage to do what’s right, even if it’s unpopular among your peers?
So I challenge you: Wear your uniform proudly and properly. If you don't know what your uniform's supposed to look like, find the regulation. Air Force Instruction 36-2903 and Army Regulation 670-1 exist for a reason, and the invention of the Internet makes finding them relatively painless.
When in public, you're the standard by which the Colorado National Guard – in fact the military in general – is judged. Not wearing your hat when you go out for coffee in the morning, or to the local department store during your lunch break, is not only unprofessional, it's downright lazy. If you can’t remember to wear your uniform properly, what else is falling through the cracks?
The bottom line is this: Integrity matters. We're all accountable for our actions, right and wrong. If you wouldn't get away with an action in Basic Training, Officer Candidate School or Warrant Officer Candidate School, why would you think you’d get away with it during your actual military career? The examples we set, for both our troops and our taxpayers, will ultimately determine our future.
Just as importantly, those who gave their lives in defense of this nation deserve to be remembered; not only by family and friends, but by fellow veterans, past and present. Those of us still in uniform can certainly honor their memory every day by simply taking pride in wearing our uniforms properly – and challenge others to do the same.
It’s a small, personal sacrifice to honor the larger, selfless sacrifice of those we’ve lost.