“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.”
Millions have spoken these or similar words upon enlistment in the Armed Forces of the United States. Most were US citizens, but many were not. Many were volunteers, while others were draftees. Most were men, but many were women. Since the founding of the Continental Army in 1775, the United States military has drawn on people of every race, cultural heritage, religion, and sex to serve the nation in providing for the “common defence”. I am one of these millions, and although it has been sixteen years since I first spoke the words of the oath of enlistment, they have stayed with me.
A number of things strike me about this oath that I took at the age of 21. Most significant to me is that the oath has no time limit placed on it; the Oath does not expire at the end of the term of enlistment. It goes on. My service in the military may have ended in 1993, but my promise is with me still.
The oath of enlistment makes three vows. The first is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies. The second is a vow of fealty to that Constitution. The third is an affirmation to abide by the rules and structure of the service the new recruit is about to enter.
The Constitution. We veterans have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Who are these enemies of the Constitution? Are there foreign enemies who would destroy our Constitution? Not from what I can see. The leaders of this country have told us that our foreign enemies — terrorists — hate our freedom, presumably the freedoms derived from the Constitution, and are attempting to destroy us because of the freedoms we enjoy (not because of any actions we have taken in their homelands). But our overseas enemies cannot take our freedoms from us for themselves, nor can their attacks profit at all by taking away our Constitution.
In particular, the idea of others hating our freedom does not ring true as our leaders’ response to the attacks we have suffered is to beat the enemy to the punch, so to speak, when they themselves restrict the Constitutional freedoms that we have enjoyed for generations. Leaders of the current Administration have taken a nation that was once one huge land of Free Speech, and restricted it to “Free Speech Zones” whenever the President or his Cabinet members are nearby. They have prosecuted people for exercising their rights to Free Assembly and Free Association. These leaders have imprisoned people without charge, searched their personal lives without due process, denied them trial by jury, coerced them into self-incrimination, attempted to enforce their religious priorities on the citizenry of the United States, and attempted to halt the self-governance of the people of individual states, apparently violating the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Curiously, the oath of office for President of the United States has a clause in it similar to the first clause of the soldier’s oath: “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So what is one to do when the President violates his oath? The third part of the oath of enlistment specifically mentions obedience to the President, the Commander in Chief. What a predicament this places on the honor-bound soldier — his oath in conflict with itself!
As a veteran, I must take a closer look at this oath that I have held near my heart for so long. Of the three parts of the soldier’s oath, obedience to the President is third, placing it in the lowest priority in my mind. Next, being only one of three parts of the oath, the greater weight is obviously given to the Constitution. Finally, unlike the other two parts of the oath, the section requiring obedience to the President is tucked inside a clause about adherence to military regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the only part of the oath specifically about the troop’s conduct during the period of enlistment. This appears to be a deliberate tie into the military service of the new recruit, thus the one part of the oath that ends with the term of enlistment. From these, I see my marching orders written on the wall.
My first allegiance is to The Constitution of the United States; my first duty is to protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic; and my vow of obedience to the President of the United States expired in 1993.
Therefore, I stand today opposed to my President, and the anti-American, un-Constitutional, unpatriotic Administration for which he serves as figurehead. I will do my part to voice my opposition, educate the populace, diligently support my political causes, and work with others to restore American freedoms to their former glory.
As a soldier, I made a promise. As a veteran, I will carry that promise with me to the end of my days.
Sean T Lewis
Disabled American Veteran
Persian Gulf War I