Letter to the editor: Be all the citizen you can be
To the editor,
When people learn that I spent 28 years as a Navy carrier pilot, they often thank me for my service.
I know people mean well but it’s a little embarrassing because unless my service involved actual combat or risking my life to save another, I’m not anyone’s “hero”. My military service was nothing less than an honor and a privilege. It was an amazing experience for which I will always be grateful.
As citizens of the greatest nation on earth, there are many ways each of us can serve, and we should serve, in whatever way we can. We all have unique skills to offer. As a bonus, serving others rewards us with significant physical and mental health benefits.
My work as a citizen volunteering to help prevent addiction from taking root in the minds of youth is more important than anything I did in the military. I invite you to join me in this effort at SafeLaunch.org because we are losing more than 200 young lives every day, due in large measure to two factors that work like a knockout punch: the commercial promotion of addictive substances in view of children, and a lack of safeguards that aggressively protect susceptible teen brains from drug and alcohol exposure. Teens have one life, one brain, and one choice not to use alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs for reasons of their health.
If you have read this far and share my concern, I offer the following. For most people, citizenship is thought of as an official designation connoting allegiance, rights, and privileges with little personal responsibility. However, citizenship means much more than those simplistic declarations of our modern society. The concept of citizenship goes back thousands of years beyond borders, tribes, cultures, and languages. Consider this: in our country, the highest-ranking military officers answer to… Citizens.
Above all else, a citizen is a participant, not a bystander. A citizen is a neighbor or friend who sees and acts on behalf of something greater than self. A citizen takes responsibility for family and where possible and needed, lends a hand to others. Examples include teachers and doctors who are willing to work in areas others might avoid, caregivers for the sick or disabled, people who volunteer for non-profits in their communities, and people who volunteer for candidates and causes they support.
A citizen cleans up their community, literally and figuratively. Beyond just voting in every election, a citizen goes out of their way to give honest feedback to their elected officials and holds them accountable when they underperform. Merely voting doesn’t get the job done; the most important work of oversight begins once an election is over.
A nation of active citizens remains at peace, is protective of its natural environment, yet is willing to fight enemies foreign and domestic when necessary.
A citizen takes responsibility for making sure that every young person has the opportunity to grow up in a safe and healthy environment so that they can live a meaningful life free from chemical dependency.
Of particular relevance today, citizens are charged with taking responsibility in the fight against deadly viruses and preventable diseases that target certain populations unequally.
Unlike the current COVID-19 virus, the disease of addiction unequally targets the most vulnerable population, children. The developing brain is highly susceptible to damage from the chemicals in alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs in a way that an adult’s brain is not. This inconvenient truth escapes scrutiny due to the immense lobbying and marketing power of the various addiction for-profit industries.
Recognizing and fighting addiction as a disease of epidemic proportions requires action. The results of inaction are both sad and real. Early drug and alcohol use alters healthy brain development, primes the developing brain for substance use disorder, contributes to the overdose deaths of 80,000 young Americans each year, and disables tens of millions more. The result is shattered families, homelessness, crime, child neglect, and child abuse.
In 2021, we must do everything possible to advance adolescent substance abuse prevention efforts and stop the scourge of mental illness and homelessness that we see growing before our very eyes.
Please don’t just thank me for my service. Join me. Be all the citizen you can be.
Happy New Year,
CDR USN Ret.
Editor’s note: Letters to the editor are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paso Robles Daily News or its staff. We welcome letters from local residents regarding relevant local topics. To submit one, click here.