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Veteran Forcibly Removed from Ceremony because of God

Credit: www.firstliberty.orgAir Force veteran Oscar Rodriguez Jr. was "forcibly removed" from a military base because he invoked God in a speech. During a flag folding ceremony, Rodriguez was set to offer remarks at Charles Roberson's retirement ceremony at Travis Air Force Base. Though he attempted to clear the speech with higher authorities at Travis beforehand, he received no response. . . that is, until the ceremony.

The ceremony went on as planned, until Rodriguez started giving his speech. Rodriguez told the Daily Caller it was one of the most humiliating experiences of his life as they took him away during his speech. In a press release prepared by his lawyers, Rodriguez noted:

"I have given more than three decades of service to the military and made many sacrifices for my country. To have the Air Force assault me and drag me out of a retirement ceremony simply because my speech included the word 'God' is something I never expected from our military."

Rodriguez gave thirty-three years of service to his country before retiring in 2013, having enlisted in the Air Force Army Reserve in 1980. He started out training as an avionic technician and was later promoted to section chief. He retired as senior master sergeant. Now as a private citizen, he is fully within his legal right due to the First Amendment to invoke the name of God in a speech, according to the First Liberty Institute. But leadership at the base disagreed.

For years, women and men like Rodriguez sacrificed for the land of the free because they were brave. Now, they are having to fight again. Our veterans like Rodriguez are being asked to sacrifice once again—this time not for their country, but because of their country.

It is already difficult to transition back into the country they fought for so bravely. Recent
research has shown traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder afflict an
estimated thirty percent of the 2.7 million former troops. They suffer from hearing loss,
missing limbs, memory lapses, excruciating sensitivity to bright light and noise, and have
an increased risk of suicide and depression.

Not limited to the veteran, their children often suffer social isolation, sometimes lacking fond childhood memories because of present parental struggles. Riddled with anxiousness and higher levels of stress, these children worry about whether their parents will survive. Veterans served our country valiantly and their families often bore the brunt.

Andrew Delbanco observed that the future is always at stake in how we understand the past. These veterans risked their future so that we might have one. They lived by the
principle of no man left behind, and we should heed the same. Not only should we do better, but we can do better. Or as the biblical narrative instructs us, we are to give honor where honor is due, respect where respect is due (Romans 13:7).

News like this has the propensity to cause a visceral response. One side complains that government leadership is completely the problem. The other side says that a change in government leadership is solely the solution. This false dichotomy paralyzes us in needless debate. No one wins and, in this instance, veterans lose.

Christians have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). An inevitable component of life is encountering those with whom you disagree. As Christians, we do not shy away from disagreement nor do we demonize in our disagreements. People are never the problem; rather, we take issue at times with the positions they hold and the way in which they express them.

But as our veterans so aptly have demonstrated to us for years, there is a way to disagree respectfully through appropriate channels at the right time. May we honor them by respectfully disagreeing and desiring more from our leaders. Or as the Bible says: to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

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