In South Dakota have great pride in those who served their country—volunteering to serve or stepping up when called—and we have a great appreciation of what this nation stands for. We welcome soldiers home. We take aging soldiers on honor flights. We gather to celebrate those who live and to mourn those who have passed. So it catches my attention when someone wants to make the laws of our state, but they refused to wear our country’s uniform when called. Someone like Phil Jensen.
My family’s story is like many in South Dakota: an immigrant family, a fierce sense of patriotic duty, and a strong history of military service. My immigrant grandmother homesteaded in Kadoka and her son, my father, enlisted in the Army during WWI. All of her grandsons old enough to serve during WWII did so, including my cousin Edmund Mizel who delayed his wedding until after the war out concern of leaving behind a widow. On my mother’s side, Uncle Jack, my mother’s only brother gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII. It was my great honor to serve in the military and the tradition has continued. Our family’s military service it is more than a tradition, it is part of us—it is woven through our very being.
So I was staggered when I learned that Phil Jensen replied, “no,” when called upon by his country. During the Vietnam War, while his peers stepped up when drafted doing their duty in combat and non-combat roles, Phil Jensen objected to serving in the military. But Phil didn’t just object to combat—he wouldn’t wear the uniform at all, not even in a non-combat role (that was an option, there was a classification for that). He answered no and was assigned community service in a parking garage safe at home.
Well, it’s time we said no to Phil Jensen. It is time that we told him no, we won’t give him our vote. No, he can’t put up a sign. He chose a legal avenue to avoid the draft, and that was his option. It is our option to tell him we don’t want him representing us in Pierre. Let’s tell him no.