Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, where I graduated from C.A. Johnson High School, I left my home state to attend the United States Naval Academy where I learned, and hopefully internalized, the core values of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps: “Honor, Courage, Commitment.”
When I graduated from the Academy, I chose to join the Marines, and I became a Naval Aviator. As I did throughout my thirty-four years of active duty service, that included flying four missions to space aboard the space shuttle as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps; I am still guided by these core values.
Honor, Courage, Commitment: these are more than words to me; they are the values personified by members of the military who live and serve in South Carolina, across our great nation, and around the world. Sadly, in recent years, the current president and many of his supporters have badly sullied these values.
It was dishonorable when President Trump reversed the convictions of those found guilty of murder by courts martial. It was also dishonorable when President Trump supported by Lindsay Graham and others when they deviated from the Senate’s traditional custom and nominated a Supreme Court justice after the presidential election had already begun.
It continues to be cowardly for the President not to admit his failure in the COVID-19 crisis, not to accept his responsibilities, and not to rectify the errors that have resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans — more than any other country in the world.
It was shameful for the President to threaten to withdraw the U.S. from NATO — the most successful security alliance in world history and the alliance that came to our assistance following the attack on our nation on 9/11. It was irresponsible to announce the removal of American troops from Germany and South Korea, two of our closest and most reliable partners.
It was a humiliating betrayal by the President to abandon our steadfast Kurdish allies while they bravely fight our common enemies in northern Syria.
The betrayal of the Kurds caused my friend and fellow Marine General and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to resign and to later publicly criticize the President: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Secretary Mattis was joined in his criticism by my friend and Naval Academy classmate, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Following the forceful clearing of Lafayette Square to allow the President to have his photo-op outside St. John’s Church, Admiral Mullen wrote, “Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces. There was little good in the stunt.”
It is because of these deplorable actions by President Trump that I joined almost 500 former public servants in signing a public letter endorsing Joe Biden to be the next President of the United States.
Along with my colleagues, I believe that Joe Biden is, above all, a good man with a strong sense of right and wrong. He is guided by principles that have long made America great: democracy is a hard-won fight we must defend and support at home and abroad; America’s power and influence stem as much from her moral authority as it does from her economic and political power; and our allies are valuable partners. Joe Biden understands that.
South Carolina has long been the home to active duty and retired members of the military, who personify and cherish the values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Sadly, the statements and actions of Donald Trump continue to result in dishonor, cowardice, and betrayal.
Americans will have the opportunity to right the American ship of state come November, and it is vital that Americans who treasure the core values of the Navy, Marine Corps and most Americans vote to do so.
Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. is a native of Columbia, a retired Marine officer, astronaut, and former NASA Administrator.