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We are a 'culture of accountability'

Patrick AFB, Fla. -- Many of us recently attended celebrations of our nation's independence, where military service was highly honored ... and rightly so. Less heralded, though equally important to our continued liberty, is the responsibility of individual citizenship.

The notion that all citizens are equal, regardless of the circumstances of birth, and that our leaders govern only with our consent was a novelty at a time when monarchs and dictators ruled the nations of the earth. Born within this crucible of American citizenship, our military developed a culture of accountability not seen before.

Today we serve in our nation's military by choice. We consent, for a time, to rules that govern our professional and personal lives; even to the point of accepting command by other citizens. And though the military commander in the United States does not possess absolute authority, he does possess power and influence beyond what we would normally allow.

To ensure this power is constrained, our military commanders at all levels are checked by the rule of law, and are overseen by a chain of command that is ultimately subject to civilian authority. But we have an even more potent check on power ... vigilance of the individual citizen.

In the United States, a military commander is one of us - not some privileged aristocrat. For a short time, they have authority over other citizens to conduct necessary military operations. They are the servant of their fellow citizens/soldiers ... not their ruler.

Very soon, they return to private life where their only legitimate power is the freedom to persuade the intellect of his neighbors and to exercise their right to vote. This process of taking up power, and then laying it down again is a sacred American ideal established by the first Commander in Chief.

Every American must be vigilant to scrutinize and hold accountable all who exercise power over our lives, liberty and property. We must never allow ourselves or our leaders to show contempt for our fellow citizens. Instead, we must hold each other in high regard, and restrain the necessary audacity of authority with the humility of service and mutual respect.