Arizona case brings into question society’s respect for troops
Every day we trust members of the military to protect us. Regardless of how we may feel about what they are doing, few walk into harm’s way on a daily basis the way that men and women in the military volunteer to.
When the draft was instituted during the Vietnam War, young Americans argued that if they should be allowed to fight for their country, then they should also be able to enjoy a beer with friends before they are sent overseas. As a result, the government lowered the drinking age to 18.
That same trust we place in our troops, apparently, does not extend to trusting them behind the wheel.
My friend’s brother, Capt. Michael Savage of the Air Force Reserve CQ, recently traveled down to Arizona for pilot testing after his third four-month tour of Iraq. On the way back to the hotel from a bar, a police officer pulled Mike over for not having his turn signal on long enough when he turned into his hotel parking lot. When the officer administered a breathalyzer and discovered that Mike, 34, was just over the legal limit, he was arrested, said his sister Bonnie.
This case has garnered media attention in the Tempe area; there are journalists and concerned citizens that oppose what happened to Mike. He was sentenced to 10 days in Tent City and the process cost him over $17,000.
Columnist E.J. Montini, of the Arizona Republic, has been one of the loudest voices supporting my friend’s brother. Montini might understand what many of us Coloradans already do: Men like Mike dedicate their lives to protecting ours.
There may be problems with bad behavior of individual soldiers, but we should take into consideration their personality and service record before we begin generalizing on what is or is not proper punishment. It is too simple to generalize Mike with other, younger and more irresponsible members of our military.
Journalism graduate student Lindsay Gay wrote an editorial called “Give our soldiers protection in battle, not courtroom” for the Arizona State University student paper, in which she attacked the personal integrity of Savage and compared his infraction with that of a rapist. She wrote, “This is an extreme situation, but it represents the spiral of debates that an institutionalization of exceptions would create.”
Yes, and maybe it is too extreme. Sure, starting to use value judgments in all legal cases would greatly confuse laws that are meant to be clear, but I believe that there is room in our justice system for discretion by officers and judges. The only rule of the road he broke was not leaving his turn signal on long enough (a turn signal that I constantly see people neglect to use entirely all the time sober).
The government that trusts him to fly planes has questioned his ability to drive a car. He almost lost his pilot’s license for not leaving his blinker on long enough. To lose this brave pilot from the Air Force would be to risk the lives of so many more men and women in uniform.
It might be sexy and controversial to drag a soldier’s reputation through the dirt, but I think that Mike deserves our thanks, not the stress and damage done to his career and family.