10/25/2014 10:14 am ET Updated Dec 25, 2014

What You Owe Your Military

Carolina k. Smith, m.d. via Getty Images

A few days after the midterm elections, our nation will observe another Veterans Day. Politicians will spout platitudes about support for the troops, newly elected (and mainly re-elected) congressmen will make appearances with flags pinned to their lapels -- and deployed American forces will try to get through another day.

The men and women in harm's way on November 11 will, once again, put everything on the line: their lives, their limbs, their futures. Everything. While their representatives back home refuse to risk anything.

In an act of appalling political cowardice, the 113th Congress left Washington in September refusing to vote on or even debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS. Leaders offered lame excuses.

"The president didn't call us back." Congress could convene on its own.

"Better to let the next Congress vote." The current Congress was elected to handle issues that come up during this term.

The responsibility of Congress under the War Powers Resolution remains clear. The act says the president may commit forces to combat for up to sixty days; operations beyond that time require Congressional approval.

We all know the real reasons members of Congress went AWOL: They don't want to get pinned down, at least not before an election. They don't want to vote for an authorization, in case the mission goes badly. They don't want to vote against an authorization, in case the mission goes well.

Which begs a question: If politicians refuse to take a stand on their most sacred responsibility -- sending young Americans into combat -- why do they run for office at all? Purely for the government checks and the cushy benefits? Perhaps so -- which brings the concept of welfare queens to a whole new level.

So, this is where you come in. Do you want to support the troops? I mean truly support the troops; the yellow-ribbon magnet on your car doesn't count. If you do, ask yourself a question when you go to the polls: Which candidate takes war seriously enough to take a stand?

A few members of Congress actually wanted to do their jobs. Does one of them represent your district? If so, perhaps that one deserves your support, whether he or she is a Democrat or Republican.

As a veteran, I get tired of shallow patriotism. The kind of patriotism that sputters outrage over the president's careless latte salute -- yet runs and hides from tough decisions. Patriotism that demands a stronger military, but doesn't want to pay for it. Patriotism that kicks the can down the road to the next Congress.

As you read this, military aircrews are likely suiting up for their next sorties against ISIS. Unlike members of Congress, they don't get to wait until it's more politically expedient.

Real patriots take a stand when it counts. When it's politically unpopular. When it costs. When it hurts.

If your favorite candidate hasn't done that, think twice before you cast your vote. That's what you owe your military and your veterans.