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(Enlarge) Col. Edward C. Rothstein, Garrison Commander

Voting in any type of election, from local elections to presidential primaries, provides an important way to voice your opinions regarding elected leaders and issues that matter to you.

This week I give way from my weekly column to share with you a letter written in 1964 by a young Fort Meade platoon leader who scribes his thoughts about why it's important for members of the military to exercise their right to vote.

Thank you Regina Abbott for sharing with our readers this letter by your husband, who died in 2010.

The next election will be held on Nov. 6. I hope everyone exercises their right to vote. For more information, visit fvap.gov or talk to your voting assistance representative.

Have a great week!

TO: The Personnel of My Platoon

Oct. 16, 1964

My Vote, Freedom's Privilege

As members of the armed forces, we have been entrusted with one of the most sacred missions our country can bestow upon its citizens -- namely, the defense of this nation against all those powers intent on uprising or overrunning her.

But unfortunately, this trust is sometimes extremely evasive. The jobs we are given are frequently rather menial, the hours long, the compensation small. Too often we feel abused, unappreciated, mired in futility.

How many times, as we perform our assigned tasks, have we failed to realize, failed to remember the obligation and faith vested in us?

However, we all know, stepping back and taking a detached view of the situation, that every duty, large or small, is both necessary and vital to the realization of maximum defense posture. And that every man, as he performs his duties, is contributing his share to the preservation of this nation's autonomy.

Defending our country, by whatever means we must employ, through whatever tasks we must perform, is really more than just our duty; it is our privilege.

Now it is time to focus this detached view on our right to vote.

People frequently ask, "Why should I bother? What difference will my vote make?" And superficially, the logic behind these queries seems both apparent and valid.

Obviously, one vote more or less is probably not going to affect the outcome of a national election. And no one will be hurt if you do not vote. No one, that is, except you as an individual.

For just as we, each one of us, is entrusted with a small portion of this nation's defense, so are we entrusted with a voice in the selection of this nation's leaders.

No matter where in the world a man lives, he is subject to military service. But where else in this world is he afforded the privilege of choosing his military service's commander-in-chief? This is the glory of our heritage, the honor of our freedom and the magnitude of our responsibility.

As uniformed members of the American ideal, we symbolize hope for all those in the world less fortunate than we are. The needy, the underfed, the oppressed look to America as their hope, their salvation.

And when they turn their imploring gaze to this country, they are in essence looking to each and every one of us with the respect and admiration that only free men can command.

Let us be sure we deserve their admiration. If we fail them, we have failed ourselves. Take the time to vote. It is just a small effort, but it is a huge responsibility.

The privilege of voting is the privilege of freedom. And gentlemen, this is the privilege we proudly defend. This is America.

Walter D. Abbott Jr.
1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army
USASA Support Group
Fort Meade

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