Dear President Obama,
My name is MAJ(R) Matthew Wadler. I served honorably for just over 20 years. During that time, it was my distinct privilege to serve in a multitude of organizations and specialties. This included starting my career as a young paratrooper with the Military Police Corps at Fort Bragg and a deployment to Somalia. That was a unique and educational experience for me in ways that I would not come to understand for many years to come.
After six years of service to our nation, I applied for and received an Army ROTC scholarship. This was a momentous occasion for me, as I felt that I would be able to have much more of an impact as an officer in service to America. During the next 15 years, I was blessed to have served in many unique positions. This includes my time as a Field Artillery Officer at Fort Bragg where I had my first deployment to Afghanistan, then as a Recruiting Company Commander, followed by Assistant S1 for the 4th BCT (Currahee Brigade) out of Fort Campbell (where I had my second Afghanistan deployment), the Brigade S1 for the 15th Sustainment BDE at Fort Bliss, and finally back to recruiting as a Battalion XO and S3.
During my time in the military, I have always held the highest regard for the office of president. I believe that anyone who ascends to the office of president is no longer really a person. They are the embodiment of all that America signifies. Who you are as a person no longer matters. From now until the end of time, you are the physical embodiment of the United States of America. Just based upon that alone, you are given respect and honor without the need to have brought honor upon yourself.
I may have disagreed with your decisions politically. In fact, I cannot honestly not think of a single decision that you have made in accordance with your official capacity that I have actually agreed with. For example, when you lowered yourself to not only campaigning for Hillary Clinton but making snide comments to Trump (“At least I will go down as being a president”), I basically ignored it. Or when earlier in your presidency you called out the police for “[acting] stupidly,” and then later made the office of the president look moronic for completely misrepresenting the facts, I basically blew it off. I was even able to overlook how you stated that there was a red line with Syria that you ignored, allowing countless people to die a horrible death and doing nothing about it, making us look pathetically weak to our enemies and allies alike. Even with all of this, you were my president, and I respected the office you held. After all, with the oath I took, I swore to protect the Constitution against all enemies, and you were the gatekeeper of that oath.
However, I am no longer sure that I can look at the office in the same light. During my career, I would have sacrificed my life in order to save a brother or sister in arms. This is not something I would want to do, nor is it a price I would pay without regret. I would also have given my life to protect and uphold the Constitution, for I believe that this document has led to immense good in the world and has been a light to those in need since our inception. I would have done it then and would still to this day do so because of a belief in the honor and commitment all servicemen have to their oath. It is an oath that we are never relieved from, whether we are 20 or 85. It is an oath that we have seen paid in blood and tears and death, both by our brothers and sisters and to our enemy.
So hopefully you will understand the shock and horror I felt when my president—the man who is supposed to be the standard-bearer for the Constitution—commuted the sentence of a traitor. Someone who is solely without honor or virtue. You are our leader, the commander in chief. We follow your orders because we know at the end of the day you will hold true to the values we are supposed to emulate: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage. How could you turn your back on the men and women who have bled and died on your command?
Let us look at Bradley Manning for a moment, Mr. President. PFC Manning took classified documents because he apparently wanted to stop the war by showing just how convoluted and horrible war can be. What he actually did was potentially cost the lives of his fellow soldiers. The democratic party wants to parade President Trump as a recruiting tool for the Islamic terrorists, yet how many killers did this turncoat help to recruit? How many men and women will never again return home due to him? Of course, this is not a concern of yours. After all, there will always be a round of golf to help take your mind off such things of inconsequential magnitude.
Again, Manning professes his desire to show the horror of war, yet we already know of this, or at least the warriors who are suffering from his cowardice do. Combat is horrible and awful. It leaves scars that run deep and permanent. But that is not your concern, Mr. President. You don’t need to understand the effect war has on those who engage in it. We volunteered to take on that badge for the rest of the nation. We don’t ask for you pity or remorse. What we ask is that you honor our sacrifice by ensuring our values are kept sacred and that when one of our own violates them, they are punished swiftly and with absolute justice.
How can you expect the men and women who are fighting your wars to keep faith when they know that you are not going to punish those who betray them? During my second tour in Afghanistan, my unit lost a soldier on a mission. I had never met this man, and to this day I could not identify him even if I saw a picture of him. However, his death haunts me often. See, he was killed by an insurgent who had become an Afghanistan police officer. He was actually shot in the head from behind, so he never even had a chance to defend himself. Why would this soldier’s death affect me so much? It was when I discovered from his platoon leader that he died on his young daughter’s birthday and that she was expecting a call from her daddy, who was deployed on your orders, Mr. President. This is the gift you give to her and all of those who lost parents, brothers, sisters, etc. Her life will always be missing something because of the sacrifice he was willing to make. And you honor that sacrifice by allowing a war criminal to go free. Not even just a war criminal, but a former brother in arms for whom any of us would have given our lives.
President Obama, I cannot begin to express to you the outrage and betrayal I feel. My nation has turned on all of us who swore to protect it—remember you are not a man anymore but the embodiment of all that this great nation represents. I don’t expect any of this to affect you. I don’t believe you lower yourself to feel the pain of those who followed your orders into battle. Nor can I envision you actually concerning yourself with the opinion of one lowly veteran. However, with all of that said, I never believed you would so blatantly spit in our faces either. I guess the joke is on not just me, but all of us who have served under you.
Matthew Wadler is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.