Military veterans taking the citizenship oath
Sailors and Marines take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway. Navy photo

By Marjorie K. Eastman

Whenever I speak with someone new, I always begin with gushing about the one city that will forever own a piece of my heart—San Diego.

It’s where I went to college. It’s where I was married. It’s where I raised my right hand—pledged an oath to support and defend the constitution—and joined the military after 9/11.

Nineteen years ago, when our representatives stood together on the steps of the nation’s capital and sang in unison God Bless America, we faced a different crisis: Terrorism. We were attacked. Our country rallied, and I will never forget the wave of patriotism that I witnessed first-hand. We were one color then—red, white, and blue.

Fast forward to today, and only Hollywood’s most delusional script writers could have imagined what we’re currently facing in 2020, a year that will go down in infamy as the dumpster fire of the 21st century. Bluntly said, in the military we would preface the description of this year with, “you can’t make this (explicative) up.” A global pandemic, incensed with racial tensions that have fractured law and order, economic strife and deep partisan division have set the stage for a jaw-dropping, history-making election this November.

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And, the group of citizens that our society trusts the most—military members and veterans—are depending on you to ensure our votes are counted. The reality is, though our armed service members dedicate their lives to honoring and serving our country, at large they have an extremely difficult time casting ballots and often must cast their ballots through the mail.

While California thankfully allows mail-in ballots to be counted as early as 29 days prior to the election, the state has 20.9 million people who are eligible to vote, and almost 200,000 of those people are active military or members of the reserve. Based off of previous elections, we can expect that some of those ballots will arrive after election day if they’re coming from around the globe, as the average transit time to voting centers in the United States take an average of 6 days—but with the influx of eligible voters casting ballots by mail this year, we can expect this to take longer.

The bottom line is: This election, we cannot afford to have their voices lost in the shuffle of voting during a pandemic. To ameliorate this, we must demand that no candidate should be declared an election winner until all military ballots are tallied.

San Diego and California have a critical role to play this election since the Golden State boasts the highest amount of active and reserve military members in the nation, and I want my treasured city to know it can make a significant impact in this election—your commitment and courage is needed right here and right now to ensure we count every hero this election season.

Retired General Tony Zinni, one of Count Every Hero’s chairmen, said it best, “We count on our troops to fight for our freedom so we owe it to them to count their ballots.”

Whether standing on top of Mt. Soledad on the edge of La Jolla, or sitting on a bench next to the USS Midway in downtown, San Diego offers some of the country’s most poignant places to remind us that generations of service members have risen to the challenges of our time.

Now, we need our fellow citizens to rise on our behalf and demand that we Count Every Hero.

Marjorie K. Eastman is a former resident of San Diego. She is a U.S. Army veteran and award-winning author of The Frontline Generation.