I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Oath of Enlistment into the U.S. Armed Forces
(As a prelude to today’s column, I am compelled to note that my reason for placing the Oath of Enlistment above is because of a post that my friend and fellow Oliver Ames High School Class of 1981 member, Jim “Kip” Kippenhan – retired from the U.S. Navy – posted on Saturday night on Facebook. Kip’s Veterans Day post included this sacred oath.)
Sunday we recognized Veterans Day in our land. And Sunday across America were conducted solemn and respectful ceremonies to extend thanks and remember our veterans.
And, yes, many of those ceremonies were also occasioned with smiles and happiness of gratitude for the service of millions.
Monday there will also be ceremonies to honor and say thanks to our veterans for their service, for their sacrifice.
And while it is wholly appropriate for this day to be one in which is remembered, and tethered to which stories are told about, extraordinary heroism in combat, and those who have worn the uniform who saw the worst of the worse and knew that obscenity – and combat is just that, obscenity – it is well and valuable for our nation to remember that all who the uniform of our armed forces honorably contributed something to our republic that is beautiful and in many cases immeasurable in worth.
These men and women knew and lived closely the virtue of national and civic service. They left their homes and took trains, cars, and planes to places where they would drill and practice and know deprivation – and they would do this together, subverting ego to the benefit of the team, and committing to look out for the man on the left, or the woman on right, without regard for that person’s color, religion, political affiliation, or ethnic background.
Whether in times of war or times of peace, many enlisted and were exhilarated with the service in the military and serving their country – and many among them did so inspired with history of family military service. Some, when war raged, sought to get to the fighting and to the front lines. Many among them made a career out of the military.
There is something beyond special about these soldiers and public servants.
Then there were the draftees – and many among them who disliked military and military life. But, you know, they showed up and they went through boot camp and they did what Uncle Sam told them to do – whether it was something relatively mundane and safe stateside, or something beyond terrible amid bullets flying overseas.
They didn’t run from this service; they didn’t skirt it. They did their job.
Colonel David H. Hackworth joined the U.S. Army when he was 15. He was a combat leader in Korea and Vietnam, and became one of America’s most decorated soldiers. In his memoir, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, he reflected on his role commanding draftees; here is an excerpt from what he wrote:
Even when they pissed me off, I had to admit there was something I liked about the draftees who didn't want to be there and made no bones about it …. Historically draftees have kept the military on the straight and narrow. By calling a spade a spade, they keep it clean. Without their "careers" to think about, they can't be easily bullied or intimidated as regulars; their presence prevents the elitism that otherwise might allow a regular army to become isolated from the values of the country it serves. Draftees are not concerned for the reputation of their employer, the Army (in Vietnam they happily blew the whistle on everything from phony valor awards to the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia); a draftee, citizens' army, so much a part of the history of America, is an essential part of a healthy democracy, one in which everyone pays the price of admission.
Of course, nowadays, so many of us – and that includes me – don’t pay the price of admission. And I’m not saying that you have to serve in the military to pay the “price of admission” – but as a national community we should all be more involved and give more of ourselves to our fellow Americans.
I will also say that any man or woman who served honorably and served their time in the U.S. Armed Forces has paid the price of admission to our great country – no matter his or her duty and job while wearing the uniform of our nation.
As it is so rightly said of veterans – “All gave some. Some gave all.”
Thank you, veterans – and God Bless You.