A Call to Service for All Americans on Inauguration Day 2021
On June 6, 1944, US soldiers climbed down the sides of naval vessels and piled into landing craft bobbing in the English Channel waves. Full of men, the landing crafts motored towards one of Normandy’s sandy beaches, now forever known as Omaha Beach. When the loading ramps dropped, the infantrymen charged forward, and entrenched Nazi soldiers cut them down using every weapon at their disposal – artillery, mortar, machine gun, and rifle. Within the first thirty minutes of the first wave of American soldiers hitting the beach, two-thirds of the American force had been killed. Despite the Nazi forces’ overwhelming firepower, the US soldiers advanced under fire and successfully assaulted the fortified German positions, opening the door to mainland Europe and the advance towards Berlin to unseat Adolf Hitler from power.
Most Americans know of Omaha Beach and are familiar with the great sacrifices made on that hallowed ground. Still, we fail to remember that the soldiers of the first wave on Omaha Beach were not crack troops or professional soldiers – they were ordinary citizens that were part of the 116th Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit from Virginia.
How did these average citizens triumph in one of the most tragic and challenging battles of American history?
They answered the call to duty, placed their faith in their government, and put one foot in front of the other.
It is our time – as citizens of the United States – to answer a similar call to service. In 2021, we face unprecedented challenges in America: a concurrent global pandemic and domestic insurrection, to name only two of our most urgent crises. Although we defeated Nazi Germany, similar threats have emerged in modern times that equally threaten our freedom and way of life, and we must honor the service and sacrifice of the 116th Infantry Regiment by heeding the warnings of history.
The Nazi Playbook: Conspiracy Theories and Militia Violence
Following World War I, a defeated Germany was thrown into a further economic downturn by the Great Depression. Angry and without hope, ordinary Germans looked for answers to their misfortunes. Adolf Hitler, a highly-skilled, charismatic speaker, played upon the German people’s frustration and fears through disinformation and propaganda.
The most powerful and notorious part of Hitler’s propaganda was the demonization of Jewish people as a secret organization of child-eating pedophiles that controlled the world through a shadow government. Hitler provided the German people with a scapegoat for their problems by promoting this conspiracy theory that ‘revealed’ the hidden plot of Jewish people to secretly reduce white Germans’ position.
Hitler increased his stranglehold on German democracy by uniting various right-wing extremist factions into his own personal mob of paramilitary thugs, the Sturmabteilung (‘Storm Detachment’), commonly known as the Brownshirts. He used this force to intimidate politicians and incite further political violence by staging ‘spontaneous’ anti-Semitic riots. Hitler then used German fears of Communism to consolidate his power as a dictator by gaining emergency executive powers, paving the way for the destruction of the German Republic, the rise of the Nazi war machine, and eventually the first mechanized genocide.
Like a virus, Nazi influence spread throughout the world and eventually struck America. The alliance between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany eventually led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Following the devastating attack, the writing was on the wall: it was time for America, as a nation, to go to war and defeat this evil.
A Time for American Citizens to Serve
During World War II, the enemy was clear, and the goal was simple – Hitler and the Axis Powers needed to be stopped at all costs. Although Hitler was a clear and present danger, that did not mean the soldiers of the 116th Infantry Regiment enlisted, went overseas, and hit Omaha Beach without fear. Compared to our generation, these soldiers recognized that their own personal safety and concerns did not matter in the face of the Nazi threat. These young men heeded their government’s call to duty, followed their superiors’ orders, and placed their faith in the knowledge of experts, which ultimately made D-Day a success.
We are now facing a similar existential threat, but now our new enemy is invisible in airborne droplets and camouflaged in social media campaigns, but the stakes have never been higher. The COVID virus is rapidly evolving into more infectious strains, and insurrectionists have stormed our Capitol for the first time in our history.
I have dedicated my life to public service in one form or another. I began my career as an EMT in Los Angeles and as a Station Officer at a Police Department. After earning my degree, I deferred the opportunity to become an officer in the military and, instead, enlisted to become a Special Forces ‘Green Beret’ Medic. I served two tours in Afghanistan, one under President Obama and one under President Trump. I did ten years in the US Army, most of that time focused on counterinsurgency, and then continued my dedication to our communities through education. Now, I see that I must also use my voice and privilege to further democracy.
It is time for our generation to stop talking about The Greatest Generation and instead create our own legacy by putting fear and self-preservation aside and answer our nation’s call to duty.
Our marching orders are clear:
To date, more than 400,000 of our fellow Americans have died from COVID. That is more than the total US combat deaths in World War II. This number is almost guaranteed to eventually surpass the total number of combat deaths from all of our wars combined.
People who are eligible for a vaccine and opt not to receive it because they are concerned about unproven side effects are thinking in their own self-interest, not our country’s. While COVID has proven to kill and cause disability, these people are more concerned with ‘What if…’
If death on a massive scale is not enough motivation, it is abundantly clear that they are contributing to the prolonged economic anguish of this country by not allowing the economy to recover as quickly as possible. More than ever, we need to regain our financial footing to face the real looming threat of China, which is the only economy in the world to grow over the past year.
It is true, we do not know everything about the side effects of COVID vaccines, and I have my own reservations, but the soldiers of the 116th Infantry Regiment definitely did not have any guarantees that they were going to walk away from that beach. They also did not question the science that allowed their steel vessel to float or their bullet to find its target – they trusted scientific professionals to do that work for them, so all they had to do was step off the boat and put one foot in front of the other.
Scientists throughout the world have dedicated their lives to developing safe and effective vaccines, and the COVID vaccines meet all of the standard requirements for the FDA, so it is time that we put our faith in our scientists. Pence got one. Biden got one. Fauci got one.
If you are eligible to get a COVID vaccine, it is your duty to get one.
If you have the opportunity to convince someone eligible to get a vaccine, it is your duty to educate that person and encourage them to do so.
Undermining a democratic process through the propagation of lies and conspiracy theories is never acceptable. Assaulting the halls of our democracy and the foundations of the constitution is unforgivable.
We have learned that our words have real consequences, and it is clear that people who propagate unfounded conspiracy theories are a threat to our republic. It is essential to state that all major news outlets – even fringe outlets such as Newsmax – have reported that Election Fraud claims are false. People that propagate this lie are living in an echo chamber of their own political ideology.
As the beneficiaries of the freedom that the 116th Infantry Regiment fought and died for, we must never let propaganda and conspiracy theories influence our democratic processes again. It is an affront and a blatant insult to the ghosts of Omaha Beach to perpetuate such lies. If the German and Austrian people had upheld their civic duty to confront conspiracies and paramilitary organizations, the citizen-soldiers from Virginia would never have found themselves under fire on foreign shores. Instead, the German and Austrian people of the 1930s chose fear and failed to take action, and the world suffered because of it.
Now, more than ever, it is every citizens’ patriotic duty to actively combat disinformation by addressing it head-on. Below are recommendations on how we, as individual citizens, can fight this tide of information, each with a link to a more in-depth resource.
Today, we brace for impact as a nation. Insurgency and a surging pandemic loom on the horizon. Once again, EMS finds itself in an unprecedented position: garrisoned on our capitals’ frontlines, threatened by both physical and biological harm.
If you are still waiting on the sideline, do not let history pass you by: answer the call to duty, place your faith in our government, and put one foot in front of the other. Sharing these thoughts with you through this platform is my first step in answering our new call to duty, and I urge you to use your voice as well.
Ahead of us, entrenched in the bunkers of Omaha, is violence, extremism, antiscience, and self-interest. For those that have cast political parties aside and stand shoulder to shoulder with other loyal public servants, your landing craft is approaching the beach. As the ramp drops, I share this message with you and call out the infantry motto, ‘Follow me.’
I will see you on the beach.
President, IA MED
De Oppresso Liber