Prisoners of Faith

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On February 22, 1983, I raised my right hand in the Los Angeles MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and said, "I, Charles Stuart DeVore, 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..." With those words, I became United States Army Private First Class DeVore, joining the millions of others since 1789 who swore with their lives to "support and defend the Constitution."

Unlike many veterans, I have been fortunate not to see combat. I was "officially" shot at only once; during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 (well, there was that time in Lebanon, but that wasn't official; and I was carjacked in 1988 by Panamanian paramilitaries). 

When the members of the armed forces of the United States of America fight, they do so not just for their colleagues in uniform next to them - virtually every soldier in history has done that - they do so not for king or country - they fight to preserve a document, the Constitution. In that, the United States Armed forces have become the greatest force for good, for freedom, that the world has ever seen because the Constitution exists to make a reality out of the promise of the Declaration of Independence to secure our "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

As a lawmaker and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired Reserve, I have sworn two oaths to "support and defend the Constitution." It's an obligation I take seriously. It's one of the reasons why I do what I can with the power of my office to "secure the Blessings of Liberty" when people ask for my assistance. 

This last summer, I was approached by family members of four women wrongly imprisoned in the Peoples Republic of China for their religious beliefs. These family members, all U.S. citizens or resident aliens, went to their U.S. and state representatives, including Senator Barbara Boxer's office, asking for help. They were turned away. No one would assist them by using the moral power of their office to move the Chinese authorities. By the time they came to my office in desperation, they were in tears. At least one woman, Jinhua Ma, the mother of a California resident, had been held for a year without charges in a "Laogai" - a Chinese forced "Reeducation Through Labor" camp.

I agreed to lend the services of my office to help these California families. We sent letters to the Chinese Ambassador, the Consul General, the Mayor and Police Chief of Shanghai, and others. I wrote about the case (and was roundly criticized by some for "wasting" my time when there were more important things to worry about in California). 

A few weeks after we sent the letters, we found out that the Chinese legal system had filed formal charges against the four. The sleep deprivation tactics ceased and treatment improved. Then, in September, came welcome news, Jinhua Ma, unjustly-held for a year in hard labor, was released. I was moved to tears at the thought of relief that must have swept over Jinhua Ma's family. 

Last night I spoke to the UC San Diego College Republicans. It was my 201st campaign event since declaring for office. Unknown to me, a young San Diego woman by the name of Joanna Wang was in the audience. Near the end of my talk, she rose to read a statement. She thanked me for getting her mother out of prison in China. It was a powerful moment as I struggled to keep my composure. Joanna Wang's mother is Jinhua Ma and Jinhua Ma now breathes free air. 

This is why I serve.

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