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No right to serve: An opinion on Trump's transgender ban for the military

Immediately when you join the military, you learn that you fight for a democracy — but you don’t work for one.

You also learn that you change to meet the needs of the military. It doesn’t change to meet your needs.

I say this in the controversy surrounding the recent social engineering issues: The opening of combat jobs to women and President Donald Trump’s announcement last month that he will reverse the Obama-era acceptance of transgender troops.

The military serves one purpose, and that is to win our wars as efficiently as possible.

For good reason the military is governed by a strict Uniform Code of Military Justice that in effect strips away many of the constitutional rights that civilians enjoy.

The UCMJ has its roots all the way back in the Second Continental Congress of 1775. It may be antiquated in some people’s eyes — but it works!

For instance, you don’t have freedom of speech in the military. If you display contempt for your superior officers or stand up and insult the president of the United States, you are subject to a court-martial.

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Even adultery is a court-martial offense. Imagine if we held our elected leaders to these few standards.

Service is not a right. If you are too fat, too short, too tall, too dumb, or have virtually any preexisting condition, you don’t get in.

For whatever reason, I don’t hear any protest about this blatant discrimination. Why are people not up in arms about this like they are about transgender troops and females in combat?

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance has been around for nearly 50 years, but I don’t hear them complaining about fat people not being able to serve.

I mean, if they can pass the fitness standards why are they being blatantly discriminated against?

When you look at a United States Marine in uniform, you get your answer. You will never see a Marine looking other than perfect in uniform.

The way a Marine looks in uniform has probably helped to deter more conflicts than can ever be known. The way he looks in uniform represents discipline, self control and pride for his chosen profession -- which scares the hell out of our enemies, as it should.

We must be vigilant in preserving the very force that protects our rights; it is not a place for social engineering.

The recent move toward open service of transgender troops and females in combat roles is purely cherry-picking for progressive social issues, not focused on improving the mission.

I battle with these issues because I want equality and fairness across the board.

But war is not fair and, as a result, military service is not a right. It’s a privilege and responsibility.

Distractions to the force are very dangerous to readiness, so we need to do our homework before we make adjustments.

We need to act like carpenters and measure twice and cut once.

Of course, the first argument will be that the military used to be segregated by race.

Now, the U.S. military is fully integrated and ethnic minority groups make up roughly 40 percent of active-duty troops.

But here’s one potentially crucial difference that could stop us from comparing the transgender minority to a racial minority: One large study of transgender people found that more than 40 percent had attempted suicide, according to research by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

I really do wish that our civilian leaders would stick with telling us the who, what, when, where and why, but let the how be decided by the experts.

San Diego resident Ed Hiner retired in 2012 as a Navy SEAL lieutenant commander. He is a best-selling author, leadership consultant and corporate speaker who focuses on veterans and military issues through the lens of leadership. You can reach him at

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