Last Friday night my wife and I started the weekend like millions of other Americans. We took our parents to see Tom Hanks in Hollywood's retelling of the Navy SEALS' legendary mission to save the captain of the Marks Alabama from Somali pirates. And we got what we were hoping for, a reminder that even during a prolonged government shutdown we have a lot to be proud of in the United States of America. Most namely, our men and women in uniform.
With courage and professionalism Navy negotiators aboard the USS Bainbridge and a dispatched team of SEALS analyzed a complex situation and responded with surgical precision. They were composed and confident, mature and fearless. We left the theater with the feeling that no situation could shake the nerves of these steely eyed, finely trained Americans. And even more, the feeling that these brave men and women should be put in charge in Washington.
Then on Tuesday, the world was introduced to U.S. Army Captain William Swenson, who became the sixth living soldier awarded the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His actions in the Battle of the Ganjgal Valley were no less heroic than General Washington crossing the Delaware in 1776. It is also the kind of stuff that finds its way to the silver screen. After exposing himself to heavy gunfire to save a friend, Swenson made himself an easy target in an attempt to flag down a medevac helicopter. After loading his injured comrade aboard, video from helmet mounted cameras shows Swenson reach down and kiss Sgt. Kenneth Westbrook on the forehead and pat him on the side of the head before he was lifted out of combat.
Now that is love. That is courage. That is patriotism. Frankly, that is what defines the United States on our very best day. And it is proof that some people in this country still have what it takes to serve their country and their friends before themselves. That grainy video shot four years ago in the dusty Ganigal Valley represents everything Washington no longer does.
At the same moment Captain Swenson was being awarded our nation's highest military honor, much lesser men on Capitol Hill were making a mockery of the form of government Swenson and others risk their lives to protect. From the publicity stunts of Texas Senator Ted Cruz to the close-mindedness of Harry Reid and other Obamacare promoters, the contrast between our political leaders and our military leaders has never been greater than it is at this moment.
Regardless of Wednesday's do-nothing agreement that emerged from the Senate to temporarily end the government shutdown and lift the so-called debt ceiling, the impotence of our leaders in Washington is now as striking as the bravery of our men and women in uniform.
It doesn't seem possible that one arm of the same federal government could evoke such pride from the American people through its courage yet another could evoke such frustration through its timidity. Maybe one group simply takes their job and their oath to the Constitution more seriously than the other. Or it could just be that those in the military are held accountable by higher expectations than the politicians.
Either way, the American Voter has the authority to force a higher standard in Washington. A standard that has already been set, time and time again, by men and women like William Swenson.
Weston Wamp is communications director of the Lamp Post Group.