Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper on Tuesday reminded the troops that they must remain above politics — especially as protests and rioting have broken out in cities across the nation following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Department of Defense personnel have taken the oath to protect the Constitution — including the right of Americans to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly, Mr. Esper said.
“For well over two centuries, the U.S. military has earned the respect of the American people by being there to protect and serve all Americans,” he wrote in a memorandum released Tuesday.
“I ask that you remember at all times our commitment as a department and as public servants to stay apolitical in these turbulent days,” Mr. Esper said.
Mr. Esper said he was proud of the U.S. military for its leading role in the campaign to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
“This historic mission was just the most recent example of our longstanding support to civilian authorities,” he wrote. “This past week our support to civil authority mission — that had been focused on COVID-19 — changed. Our National Guard are now also being called upon across the country to help protect our communities, businesses, monuments and places of worship.”
Americans who are frustrated and angry must be allowed the opportunity to be heard. The violent actions of a few should not undermine the rights of law-abiding citizens, Mr. Esper told the troops.
In each challenge it has faced, Mr. Esper said the U.S. military has remained willing and ready to serve.
“We will safeguard the hard-earned trust and confidence of the public as our nation’s most respected institution,” he wrote.