By Ben Walworth
In your own words, give the history of the oath of enlistment given to each member of the Armed Services as they are sworn in to serve our country.
The Oath of Enlistment has been revised a handful of times since it was first created in 1775. Our nation has changed immensely during this time; however, the principle concept of the Oath of Enlistment has held true and stood the test of time.
Beginning in 1775, the oath was included as part of the act that created the Continental Army. With this, different phrases of the oath included: “this day, voluntarily enlisted myself”, “for one year, unless sooner discharged”, and “established for the government of the said Army”. This version was not very fluid and was not extremely eloquent. It is important to note that at this time, the country was still in the first steps of its foundation.
1776 saw several changes to the Oath of Enlistment. The first change was still under the Continental Congress, and was much more eloquent than the previous version: with phrases including: “to be true to the United States of America”, “honestly and faithfully”, and “observe and obey the orders of the Continental Congress”. Then, the next change in 1776 applied to the Officer Oath and made it extremely focused on the Revolutionary War, referencing the “Thirteen United States of America” and no allegiance to “George the third, king of Great Britain”.
The next set of changes to the oath occurred in 1778. In short, this simply cleaned up the previous version from 1776. Rather than the “Thirteen United States of America”, it was referenced as the “United States of America” and still mentioned King George III.
Then, in 1789 the first oath under the United States Constitution was created. This oath is very similar to the current oath, but was substantially different than the previous oath from 1778, for the United States of America had officially been created. Furthermore, it was much more eloquent and flowed in a manner that was logical and clear.
After this, the Oath for Officers was changed in 1830 to match more of the changes to the regular Oath of Enlistment. This oath was lengthened and expanded in 1862, but shortened and simplified in 1884. Then, the Oath for Officers was changed again in 1959 which is the version that remains in place today.
The next time the Oath of Enlistment was revised was in 1960, and the new version became effective in 1962. This version combined several of the different phrases from the 1789 version to improve overall flow and clarity. One more key change was the addition of the phrase “So help me God”. Over time, this became a standard for many different oaths including some judicial oaths, the Presidential Oath (even though it is not required by law), the Oath of Citizenship (optional), and in many oaths to public office for officials in certain states.
To summarize, many changes have occurred from the first Oath of Enlistment in 1775, to the current Oath of Enlistment (last revised in 1960). However, protecting the land of the free, our home has prevailed. The revisions have been much needed, for our country has vastly changed since 1775. The Oath of Enlistment is something we need to take pride in and must continue to honor, to respect all active duty service members and veterans.
Break down each segment of the oath and explain what it means to you.
“I, ____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;”
I believe the first part of the Oath of Enlistment is arguably the most impactful segment to me. The men and women who take this oath are promising to defend our country against anyone who poses a threat. By making this promise, there is no going back. This is serious, not something to throw around or to take lightly. The individuals who take this oath are making the selfless choice to serve their country. They are fighting for what our founding fathers set forth and all the ideals of democracy and government set forth in the Constitution. The United States Constitution represents everything our nation has fought for, and will continue to represent. So many people have dedicated their lives and have even given their lives protecting our freedoms. We must honor these individuals and continue to fight for what we believe in, and what is near to our heats. Members of the Armed Services must not only defend against anything that threatens the United States, but must also support each other and stand true in their beliefs. They represent our nation, our values, and our ideals. These men and women are the true embodiment of the United States Constitution, constantly fighting to keep the United States a free and independent nation. It is important to note that the United States faces threats and enemies on all fronts: both foreign and domestic. The men and women of the Armed Services are protecting us across the globe; they provide full-range, comprehensive protection and defense.
“...that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;”
I believe the key word of this segment is “true”. Individuals who take this oath must wholeheartedly believe, trust and pledge loyalty to the United States. It places emphasis on authentic, real, full-fledged faith and allegiance. you cannot partially “buy-in” or support these ideals, but you must fully promise to uphold them. Having faith is trusting the process. Being faithful means having complete confidence in someone or something, and not letting doubt take hold. Pledging allegiance is something that most individuals do on a regular basis to our flag; however, in this sense it represents remaining loyal and committing entirely to protecting our great nation.
“...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.”
Members of the Armed Services must respect and follow through with the orders of the President of the United States. Individuals are not required to always agree or support the choices of the President, but they must – at a minimum – respect the office and the decisions, while doing everything they can to execute and follow said orders. This also applies to any superior officers. Individuals may not know the full picture, but they must complete their section or task as instructed, in order for the collective to function efficiently and effectively. Adhering to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice is of utmost importance. This was not put in place for no reason. There was thought, intention, and purpose poured into every word of this code. In order for the Armed Services to be efficient in all their dealings, there must be a level of regulation, especially in regard to internal dealings. A written system of discipline that is uniform, is necessary to promote impartiality. Finally, it is important to make reference to God, for you must have His support for all that you do. Through Him, all things are possible.
(Editor’s Note: Branson Globe hopes you enjoy reading the thoughts of these young people, and will wish them well in their future endeavors. Watch the Wednesday, June 10 issue of Branson Globe for the essay by Garrett Wicker. Thanks to Scholarship Chairman Bob Sarver of VVA 913 for sharing the essays with Branson Globe)