As we celebrate our veterans the Defender asked Black vets what they thought of the state of the country in light of today’s hostile and divided political and racial realities.

LUTALO OLUTOSIN

Served as  Provost Marshall (Military Police) on three combat tours (US Army) in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan, Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Horn of Africa, and five other Southwest Asia countries

In my opinion, we find ourselves at a crossroads that I feel will determine whether or not the country ever become all it is capable of becoming or fading into the landscape of what could have been the greatest country in modern history. Politically, our system of democracy being eroded (perhaps intentionally) from the very top in terms of due process, respect for governmental framework, and founding democratic principles. This may not be all bad, some tenants need to go. However, destroying the system with no viable replacement is both foolish and reckless. It’s the common everyday citizens who suffer most from this type of ineffectiveness. Race relations wise, the polarizations we see today in the US are symptomatic of a interrupted healing process the country has yet to complete after slavery, the civil war, and reconstruction. We can never move past the racial divide because the injuries have not healed. Injuries remain unhealed because they haven’t been properly addressed, and they haven’t been addressed because they are so terribly painful. So, to add immigration (legal and illegal) into this hotbed of unrest adds new layers of problematic turmoil. How the country’s leadership responds to the racial, economic, and political challenges at this crucial point in our existence will determine how the country is viewed hundreds of years from now. US leadership has been largely unresponsive in terms of addressing the fundamental issues that plague racial & economic equality in the country. This has been true for many decades, but I think the current POTUS is driving a change to that history. He has stirred the pot in such a way that the racial discussion has surfaced, and without a discussion on the national level there will be no significant change. Regular, every-day, grass-roots kind of organizations must take this opportunity to push the envelope and make sure the right people participate in this national discussion.

DARTAGNAN GILES

Served in the US Army and had two deployments, to Iraq’s Camp Striker (2004-2005) and Afghanistan (2009-2010)

Politically, it seems like the Republican side, their leaders are always placing the blame on others. No matter what’s wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. They never do any self-reflection. When I talk to some of my Republican friends, it’s always, someone’s trying to take away their rights, their freedoms, their choice, and they never look at it from other people’s perspective—in terms of rights they are attempting to get or freedoms they are fighting for. My Republican friends always talk about bringing themselves up by their bootstraps, but a lot of times they forget they had people helping them along and giving them a nudge. Don’t get me wrong; the Democrats have their faults. They are becoming too pessimistic in their arguments and it bores people a lot of times. As far as the soldiers, it’s more divided than ever before. It’s gotten to the point where some use their rank and privilege to put themselves over others because of the color of their skin. It’s worse with people with higher ranks.

WILLIAM CHAMBERS

Served two active duty terms and one reserve: Active Duty Basic Training/Germany 1990-1994,

Reserves Florida/ Atlanta, GA 1994-1996, Active Duty Ft Carson, CO/Iraq 2009-2013

The US Army in terms of cohesion, morale is under great threat especially from within. The inclusion based on merit that we took for granted is fading to orange. There was a poll recently published in the Military Times that stated soldiers felt that white supremacy groups are the greatest threat. There was a Black soldier on leave who was lynched in Greece. Throw that in with constant deployments, suicides, sexual assaults you got a rough mix.  Its going to take oversight, patriotism, participation from everyone. Black vets should be more vocal not let the right dominate the conversation. Parents and relatives have lost too not only their loved ones to war also police brutality. We should have our own John MCain.

QUANTARIUS BRAWLEY

Served in the USMC, Army National Guard and US Army from Jan 99 – present, and had two deployments to Afghanistan (Khandhar and Bagram)

My thoughts on the US today are that we have made no progress since the 1950’s. I feel as if racism is as strong as it’s ever been. The difference is that for the past 30 or so years the bigots have been hiding behind closed doors. Now they feel free to walk around and show there hatred. As far as solutions I would say there needs to be increased focused on education so that young Black males have the same opportunities as their white counterparts. What I mean by that even when I go home today the education in my city is not equal there are 6 high schools and depending on what side of town you live on it determines the level of education you receive. Which in my mind makes no sense because it is all the same school system.

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