I sometimes wonder if keeping one’s word is falling into disrepute in the modern era. Promises are made lightly and integrity is matter of convenience. There was a time in
where someone’s reputation depended on their reliability and integrity. America
In the Marine Corps oath taking is serious business. We hold reenlistment formations where we retake our oaths in front of our fellow Marines. This marks the reenlistment as an important milestone for those recommitting to something other than themselves in a time when lesser men promote self oriented entitlement and a morality akin to an alley cat. To illustrate the concept of fidelity I always tell Marines if their spouse can’t trust them then there is no reason the Marine to their left or right can either.
Today we’ll examine the Oath of Enlistment. The Oath is taken by members of the Armed Forces when they enlist and particularly resonates when they reenlist.
Before we get into the Oath itself let’s look at the definition of the word.
Oath: A solemn, formal calling to witness the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says.
So, upon deciding to take the Oath of Enlistment you are inviting others to observe and take note of what you are about to do. The reason we call on others to witness something is for proper accountability of what is happening. Essentially you are saying I intend to do the following and you all are here to see if it is true or not.
I, ____________, 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; 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.
So let’s review this vow: “I, do solemnly swear…”
Solemn: marked by the observance of established form or ceremony, marked by grave sedateness and earnest sobriety. Synonym – serious.
Swear: to assert or promise emphatically, to bind by an oath.
In other words the oath taker is saying he is: “…formally and with great thoughtfulness, seriousness, and clear headedness, bind myself…” to the following course of action. The idea of binding yourself to something implies you are tied to it and cannot let go. It is an illustration of the dedication and commitment one is making.
“…I will support and defend the Constitution of the
…” United States
Support: to endure bravely, to uphold as valid or right, to pay the cost of.
Defend: to drive danger or attack away from.
Constitution: established law or custom, the structure, composition, make up, or nature of something.
So this part of the Oath could be read as: “…I will bravely endure and uphold as right the very nature and customs of the
and drive away any danger which threatens it.” Cool. United States
“…against all enemies foreign and domestic;…”
Enemy: one that is antagonistic to another, one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound, something harmful or deadly, a hostile force.
Foreign: situated outside one’s own country, characteristic of some other place, alien in character.
Domestic: of or relating to, or originating within one’s own country.
Identifying who are our nation’s enemies and who are not is a much debated subject. I tend to take a simple view of the matter. If they threaten our people, society, and our way of life then they probably need be dealt with. With that in mind this sentence might read:
“…against all those who seek to do it harm, whether their origin is unfamiliar and strange or from within our own country…”
Let us continue…
“…that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;…”
Bear: to carry, to move while holding up and supporting.
True: steadfast, loyal, without deviation.
Faith: allegiance to duty (loyalty), fidelity to one’s promises, sincerity of intentions.
Allegiance: fidelity owed by a citizen to a sovereign or government, devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause.
Notice how often the words fidelity and loyalty keep popping up? Interesting. For instructional purposes we turn to author Robert A. Heinlein:
“The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of “loyalty” and “duty”. Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute, get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.”
Continuing on: “…that I will carry out these intentions, without deviation, in support of this cause…”
“…that I will obey the orders of the President of the
and the orders of the officers appointed over me,…” United States
Obey: to follow the commands or guidance of, to conform or comply with, to behave obediently.
We have a saying: “You joined the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps didn’t join you.” It is a shocking revelation to many young people they no longer get to do whatever they want to. Welcome to the really real world! You agree to conform to our way of life.
Officer: one who holds an office of trust, authority, or command.
Appointed: to set officially.
Despite rumors to the contrary, rarely is anything of substance accomplished by committee. Someone has to lead and make decisions. In the military we have those officially tasked to do just that.
“…I will comply with the commands of the President and the guidance of those lawfully in authority or command…”
“…according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
Regulation: rule or order issued by executive authority.
Uniform Code of Military Justice: federal law enacted by Congress to establish a standard set of procedural and substantive criminal laws for all the
There are those who probably think these concepts are all just a load of romantic excrement as are concepts like fidelity and honor. They are only so much dung if we allow them to be. Here at the Camp of the Praetorians we will continue to strive to embody those ideals. Sometimes we may fail, but if it were easy or inherent they probably wouldn’t be worth striving for.
Now raise your right hand and repeat after me:
“I, [state your full name], do formally and with great thoughtfulness, seriousness, and clear headedness, bind myself to bravely endure and uphold as right the very nature and customs of the United States and drive away any danger which threatens it; I will stand against all those who seek to do it harm, whether their origin is unfamiliar and strange or from within our own country; that I will carry out these intentions, without deviation, in support of this cause; I will comply with the commands of the President and the guidance of those lawfully in authority or command, according to rules and orders issued by executive authority. So help me God.”
Now, go out and hunt some Taliban!