I am a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran. One reason I served our country was to ensure that the five freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution would be preserved.

I consider all who have served our country in the military to be patriots.

However, I, likewise, consider those who have exercised their First Amendment freedoms in peaceful protest to also be patriots. Whether they were protesting unjust wars or social injustice and inequality, they took a public stand, often suffering public consequences, to help this country “form a more perfect Union.”

There are others who claim to be patriots, but do not deserve the label. Among them are those who avoided active military service by political influence and the manipulation of our draft laws.

Some of these self-described and hypocritical patriots have attained the top position, or very high positions, in several recent presidential administrations and have recklessly launched us into questionable wars, have favored discriminatory laws and government policies, and have done their best to deprive as many people as possible of the protections that the First Amendment guarantees to all of us.

It is unfortunate and sad that the well-known aphorism that Samuel Johnson uttered in 1776, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” still applies to so many of those who have served in senior positions, and even to some of those who have served in the highest office in the present and recent administrations in our beloved country.

Jeffrey Sturgis