GUEST EDITORIAL: Honorable men fight dishonorable wars

I am a heritage native tracing my roots back to 1595 in this amazing city. Most of the St. Augustine residents memorialized on the confederate memorial were my ancestors.

 

I am most directly related to one Soldier, Peter Masters, who was both my cousin and the cousin of the late Mayor, Kenneth Beason.

I retired last year from the Florida National Guard, an organized militia. Per our State constitution, most adult males residing in Florida are members of Florida’s unorganized militia.

Those Confederate soldiers memorialized were as well — and obeyed the State Constitution. They served when called. My ancestor, Peter, was a modest Menorcan, not a slave holder.

“Into the valley of death, into the jaws of hell,” he marched, and I think of the Charge of the Light Brigade poem whenever I visit the memorial. The marker verbalizes the grief of those mourning soldiers lost in a tragic war — one in which their state leadership wrongfully directed them to participate. It serves as a warning to all of us today, that the wrong elected leaders, like Florida Civil war era Governors Perry and Milton, cause great harm.

As a retired soldier myself, like my father, husband and brothers, we went where directed to go in service of state and nation.

I well recall my late father’s belief that the Vietnam war was a waste of lives and fought in vain. Yet when called to lead his battalion into a combat zone in, he served honorably and well.

Not all of his men came back and this troubled him greatly for the rest of his life.

Florida’s Constitution still has a militia clause, and at any time citizens may be called upon to serve. While we pray that the call will be just, if history proves that it is not, are not the mothers of the fallen still Gold Star Mothers? Are not the dead still honorable soldiers who died serving their state as ordered by the duly elected governors at the time? Any marker giving context to the memorial should vilify the leadership of the State of Florida at the time, not the fallen.

My cousin Peter and all of my other ancestors who died, lost their lives serving honorably as indicated on their State of Florida military service records. As the humble Menorcan men that they were, they answered the call of their governor. That is just what soldiers do.

My cousin Peter is a hero to me. The Florida Legislature and governors of the time, are not. I recommend choosing the contextual marker verbiage with care to draw this distinction.

Ms. Masters is a retired Colonel with the Florida Army National Guard

 

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