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us army open letter vindman

An Open Letter to LTC Vindman

Words: Daniel Lim
Pictures: Sgt. Steven Lewis/US Army

You do not know me and likely the only experience we’ve shared in the US Army is that we wore the same uniform around the same time in this, the same toxic political environment. Yet based on your actions of these recent weeks, I know that you embody the reasons that I put on my uniform. I’m writing to express my gratitude to you and outline the lessons our service members and fellow citizens should take away from your recent actions while serving in this White House.

Civilians as well as service members often forget that courage is not just about facing physical danger (though clearly you are a model in that regard). Courage is also about making tough moral decisions, taking the hard right over the easy wrong. To breach professional norms and risk your career and good name to testify about the wrongs you saw is a singular act of courage. While you may yet pay the price should certain political agents have their way, please know that you have the gratitude and admiration of others in this country who believe this country to be in dire need of such heroism.

An enduring lesson from my brief service is that effective leaders lead by example. For how can we ask others to do what we ourselves are not willing to do? Sad to say, these past few years have been uninspiring for those who’ve looked to their senior leaders for examples of moral rectitude. Through their questionable actions in association with this current administration, several senior officers will have their names forever stained in the history books. By contrast, though you are now placed in the same unforgiving spotlight of public scrutiny, you are there not for an act of moral turpitude but because you did the right thing despite the injury you risked to yourself. Other military officers, whether your junior, peer or senior, should look to your example in moments of moral quandary.

I do not know whether you have a political party nor do I think it matters. We serve the greater cause of this country regardless of who is in power and whether we personally believe in the individual policies we are asked to support.

Some of your detractors may criticize you by comparing you to those senior leaders who forbear the offenses of the current administration without rocking the boat. They do this based on the overly simplistic principle that politics and the military must be kept separate. True, we must not become some banana republic whose military meddle incessantly in politics. Yet to stoically sit in the face of repeated wrongdoing is also not something we should promote as a virtue. After all, is it not true that not taking a side is the same as taking the side of the status quo? Then to not voice dissent in the face of egregious wrong is to take the side of that wrong. It is not for me to speculate upon the motivations of those other forbearing leaders, but for me, tacit compliance with immoral, unethical and illegal acts are not professional virtues to extol to our current or future military leaders.

I do not know whether you have a political party nor do I think it matters. We serve the greater cause of this country regardless of who is in power and whether we personally believe in the individual policies we are asked to support. All we ask is that while we face the enemies of our country to the front, our fellow countrymen not attack us from the rear. As made quite evident in your House hearing on Nov. 19, certain lawyers and elected representatives who have never spent a day in uniform seem incapable of respecting this simple and reasonable social contract. We the American people owe you an apology for those indignities you suffered.

Beyond professional norms and certainly beyond political expediency, the oath we took as officers must be the guiding light for our actions. This oath was not to defend a president, or a party; it was to defend the country and the Constitution of the United States from all threats, foreign and domestic. Your actions are completely in line with this oath and those who do not respect such oaths veer dangerously into the latter category of threats. By standing guardian against such a threat, you demonstrate to us all what it means to be an officer in the US military.

For all of these reasons, sir, I thank you for your patriotism. I thank you for your self-sacrifice on and off the field of battle, and for reaffirming my faith in our Army and country.


A former US Army Lieutenant

Daniel Lim is a software engineer and a former US Army officer. He holds a PhD in political science and an MS in Statistics from UCLA, and a BS in mechanical engineering from Yale University.

Daniel Lim

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