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Service members are role models

Published: 11:20AM January 24th, 2013

You are being watched; your character carefully measured.

Young eyes look up to you, older eyes salute you and your peers admire you for your willingness to serve. Not since World War II have our military men and women enjoyed such admiration from their fellow Americans.

If you’ve been in uniform in the last 10 years, odds are you’ve felt that sense of pride as you’ve walked through an airport while wearing your uniform. Moreover, people appreciate the opportunity to walk up to you and say “Thank you for your service.”

Whether you are a Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine, when you volunteered to join the armed services and put on one of our nation’s military uniforms, you also volunteered to become a role model.

What you say and how you say it; what you do and how you do it; and how you behave in public represents this generation’s military in the eyes of everyone who is watching.

Across the joint base, we have many opportunities for our service members to publicly represent their service. We provide honor guards for ceremonies, guest speakers at schools, and even service members to march in parades. Troops and units often volunteer to participate in community service projects. We receive tremendous amounts of positive feedback for what you do in our communities. I applaud you for being positive role models in our communities.

But there are other times when some of our service members are out in public and their behavior tarnishes that role model image. Unfortunately, we hear all too often from people outside the gates who call or email the joint base headquarters to complain about a service member’s “unprofessional” actions in public. Here are some examples.
• A man called to complain about a service member in uniform who flew past him on the highway on his motorcycle, speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. Not only was the service member driving recklessly, but he made the military look bad by endangering his fellow drivers and flouting traffic laws. This is a common grievance.

• A woman called to complain about a large group of Soldiers who were eating breakfast at Denny’s in Lakewood. The Soldiers were loud, used foul language and they treated the wait staff rudely. Also, the restaurant was full of other people, including children, who witnessed the Soldiers’ unprofessional conduct.

• A local apartment complex manager wrote to complain about a service member who frequently puts other tenants in danger by speeding through the development.

• A woman emailed to complain about her neighbor, a service member, who harasses her and her kids.

Some of these complaints are more easily handled than others, but in most instances, the people say, “I have the utmost respect for our military, but I expect more from them and this behavior is unacceptable.”

While the unprofessional, unflattering conduct of a few is not indicative of the true professionalism of the majority of our men and women in uniform at JBLM, it can and does taint our image.

Each of our services has a set of values to live by. But whether you are in the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy or U.S. Marines, the name tapes on our uniforms have one thing in common — they begin with “U.S.” We all represent the United States Armed Services, and we’re all role models in the eyes of our fellow citizens.