Sigh . . . it seems that United Airlines is still not backing down from the utterly insane opinion that folks in the Foreign Service do not serve our country, you can read more about that here. Guess what, United, this is the oath my husband took when he joined the Foreign Service:
“I ________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
Sound familiar? It should. It’s nearly identical to the oath members of the military take. We move our family every two to three years because of that oath, and we take seriously the responsibility of what it means to be a Foreign Service family. Here’s some of what it means to us:
- It means believing so strongly that diplomacy is absolutely essential to our democracy that we are willing to uproot our children every two to three years in order to promote it.
- It means accepting the fact that we have to serve in places that are dangerous to our physical and psychological well-being.
- It means recognizing that we will be separated because of our service. Helping my husband decide to volunteer to serve in Iraq for a year was not an easy decision but we both felt he had an obligation to our country and to his fellow Foreign Service Officers and Specialists to step up and take on a bit of the burden.
- It means knowing our family could be separated at any given moment if we’re serving in a country that is potentially volatile.
- It means knowing that we, along with our colleagues in the military, are the official face of America overseas. That is a responsibility we take very seriously and we conduct ourselves, and teach our children to conduct themselves, in a way that would make our fellow citizens proud.
We should not be penalized for our service to our country but, by denying our service, that is what United is doing. Rather than a great big high five and “thanks for your service” from United we’ve gotten “we’ve made a note of your complaint now go ahead and bite us” response.
The mission of the Foreign Service is ” to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.” However, it seems like a lot of Americans don’t understand what that means on a concrete level. So let’s look at an example, the one I know best, my hubby, because he’s had a pretty typical FS career so far.
In Guinea he helped US businesses by pursuing multi-billion dollar mining investments, worked with colleagues to promote democracy and the rule of law, and helped reunite families with American members that had become separated by violence and civil war in the region (think Blood Diamonds). He also helped around a hundred Americans to evacuate the country, including his own family, when civil unrest came to Guinea. During a routine consular tour in Dublin, he helped the US economy by assisting thousands of Irish to come to the US for study or vacation which, of course, means they spent their hard-earned dollars in our economy. And for Americans in Ireland, he helped get passports for their children, helped others get home after falling victim to crime or other misfortune while in Ireland, and he worked with the Irish government to assist American families if one of their beloved members died in Ireland. Then there’s Baghdad, where as a member of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, he worked to help stabilize Iraq’s most important province – all while dodging incoming mortars and other dangers while on missions in the Red Zone. Here, in Costa Rica, one of his duties is to help citizens of our host country understand America and what we’re all about.
Money spent on diplomacy is money that doesn’t have to be spent on war–in other words, the Foreign Service are the first line of defense that our country has. How is that not service? How does United feel justified in belittling and degrading the vital work that the Foreign Service does for our country? You know what, United knows exactly what we do, they know we serve too. But they’re depending on the fact that a lot of Americans don’t, that a lot of Americans have a misunderstanding of our lifestyle and what it means to be in the Foreign Service. Don’t let them dupe you, don’t play their game, don’t let them use our service in order to put more money in their pockets. Stand up for the members of your US Foreign Service. Please, we do what we do because we believe in you. Show United that you believe in us too. E-mail them at: email@example.com, Tom.Billone@united.com, Jeff.Smisek@united.com and tweet them @United.