Living in the United States as I do, it would be difficult to avoid noticing that today is Memorial Day. It’s a national holiday dedicated to the memory of US men and women who died in military service. That the departed servicemembers are remembered with honor is a source of pride for many US military veterans.

There seems to be a common belief, or at least an informal tradition, among “Conservative” voters who are veterans of the US military that they must support every war effort made under the auspices of the armed forces. Failure to do so seems to condemn one to be branded unpatriotic, un-American, or generally ungrateful for the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in defense of country and freedom.

As a veteran of the US Army myself, I’m sympathetic to the desire to honor my fellow veterans military service, and current active duty service men and women. Even under the worst conditions, in pursuit of the most dubious political ends, the enlisted personnel of the armed forces collectively place themselves in harm’s way to secure the safety and prosperity of this nation. When individual servicemembers behave in a manner unbefitting a defender of the rights and liberties of a nation, that person is, I believe, the exception — not the rule. When the men and women of the armed forces are deployed to pursue aims that are not ethically sound, their dedication is abused, and it is the honor of those who have misused our military who should be held in question.

The country was founded on the courage of people who placed themselves in harm’s way in defense of the ideals of personal freedom and individual responsibility. Each in his own way, the men of the Continental Army and irregular forces of the American Revolution stood as a bulwark against inequitable rule by royal fiat. Many of the leaders of that revolution stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the soldiers who made independence possible. This nation’s first President elected by the Electoral College — representative of the people’s popular vote — was George Washington, famed General and commander of the Continental Army. Every signatory of the Continental Congress who lent a signature to the Declaration of Independence, effectively a declaration of war against England, consciously signed his own death warrant in the event the American Revolution was lost.

In time, the offices of those who send our troops into battle have become increasingly divorced from the actions and risks undertaken by the troops themselves. Any risks the members of Congress and any Presidents bear are, by and large, to their political careers alone. Conflicts of interest interpose themselves in the making of the highest level decisions regarding how our military is deployed and what mission it undertakes.

Just as there is a difference between the effort dedicated to an appearance of security and intelligent, trustworthy security policy, so too is there a difference between what our political representatives sell us on the evening news and true national security. Effort — let alone the mere appearance of effort — is not equivalent to effectiveness. More than sweat must be employed to achieve any measure of real security; clear reasoning, risk assessment and prioritization, and the proper motivations must form the basis for good security policy.

People on either side of the aisle in government who employ security theater rather than effective security make themselves targets of ridicule, and force themselves into the position of polarizing politics to avoid the appearance of incompetence and corruption so they can maintain their political careers. Those who accept the words of these politicians uncritically do themselves and their countrymen — or their coworkers, in the case of corporate security — a grave disservice.

Examine every security proposal, national or corporate, with a critical eye. The truest loyalty is shown by those who advocate for truth rather than merely toeing the party line, no matter the party.

I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. While my term of commitment to the military has expired, I still take the spirit of that oath seriously. I won’t tell you today how to vote, or who or what to support; that is for you to decide, on your own terms. I would feel myself in violation of the spirit of that oath if I didn’t tell you to think for yourself, and consider the conflicts of interest that arise in the politics of national security, though.

Act, and vote, according to your conscience. Reason and dedication to principle over party are the two most effective tools we have in defense of the ideals on which the United States was founded. If you are a US citizen, and cherish the rights and liberties protected by the Constitution, you owe it to the men and women who have given their lives in defense of those ideals, to their memory, to use those tools to the best of your ability.