Leadership & Service in the Time of Coronavirus

5 mins read

How much longer will we allow this Administration to use our men and women in uniform as political props, only to abandon them in times of need? How much longer will we allow its political appointees and congressional sycophants to lay claim to the mantle of patriotism, while they simultaneously stand aside and allow the leaders of our armed forces to be picked off one by one?

I served on USS Theodore Roosevelt during my combat tour in Iraq. At that time, she was my home. I have flown from her deck, walked her passageways, and eaten her food. I’ve watched the sun rise and set from Vultures’ Row and rested below her deck between the thunder of flight operations. I’ve been proud to call her crew my shipmates and to have served alongside them.

Captain Brett Crozier was, until recently, Commanding Officer of Theodore Roosevelt. It is one of only eleven aircraft carriers in the U.S. Fleet – which is to say, one must be an outstanding Naval officer to even contemplate achieving such a position. And that’s exactly what Captain Crozier is. The Navy demands that its officers put the ship and its sailors before themselves, and that’s precisely what Captain Crozier did. We asked him to give his entire career to serve in our defense and to do so with honor. We demanded excellence and sacrifice and that’s just what Captain Crozier delivered.

On March 30th, Captain Crozier sent a letter to his superiors, advising them that Theodore Roosevelt was unable to comply with protocols established by the CDC to control the spread of COVID-19. At the time of his letter, more than 100 sailors were already infected and the virus was spreading through the ship like wildfire. 

That number is now nearly 600, and just this weekend, one of those sailors died. The very nature of life aboard a warship, with nearly 5,000 souls inhabiting the confined spaces of her hull, made social distancing, isolation, and quarantine impossible. And while those sailors were onboard the ship, the virus could not be contained. In light of these facts, Captain Crozier sensibly recommended and requested that the crew be disembarked and moved ashore where effective COVID-19 protocols could be followed. He closed his letter by stating what should have been obvious: “This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.”

And what did Captain Crozier get for putting his sailors first, for being the leader we require him to be? His Commander in Chief said he should be “fired,” his boss – a political appointee — called him “stupid,” and he was removed from command. 

And while this administration’s loyalists stayed silent, the response of his crew was deafening — they gave him a standing ovation, cheering and shouting the name of their Captain, their leader, as he was forced from their home for daring to put them before the political sensibilities of a Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t understand the meaning of service.

Captain Crozier, and the United States as a whole, deserve better leadership. He deserves to be reinstated immediately, and we deserve leaders who put country before self-interest. The wrong people keep getting fired, over and over again. How much longer will we allow this Administration and its loyalists to pretend to give a damn about anything but themselves?

Captain Crozier did not act for himself. He acted for the welfare of his crew, who he was responsible for, because he believes in concepts like duty, honor, service, and commitment. They are ideals he learned as an officer in the Navy; I know because I learned them in the exact same way. I am running for Congress because I share Captain Crozier’s values, because we need more leaders like him, and because we need them in positions where they can put our military, and our citizens, before themselves.

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Navy Combat Veteran. Fighter for Northeast Ohio. Running for Congress in OH-14.

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