By Rae Woods
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 idea of a sacred vow to service originated during the time of the Roman empire. Roman soldiers swore these promises, or oaths, to specific generals, leaders, and wars. For the United States however, the meaning of an oath changed on the 29th of September, 1789. This oath, which all members of service in the United States took, was different from the oaths of the Romans. The Oath of Enlistment for members of the armed services of the United States isn’t a question of allegiance to a temporary leader of war, but to the constitution and the country it defines
Two years after the Constitution was signed during the first session of the first congress on June 1,1789, the first bill was passed and became law. Statue 1, Chapter 1 established the requirements and procedures for constitutional oaths. The significance of this bill being the first statute implemented by the nation’s first official congress is not to be missed: the founding fathers knew the importance and necessity of an oath of service. Since its inception, the oath has undergone minor changes to clarify the meaning of the promise undertaken. In 1862, the word “defended” was added to define loyalty during the Civil war. At that same time, the officer oath was separated from the enlisted oath to specify the wording to functionality. Additionally, on October 5, 1962, the original wording “bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America” changed to “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States” to show that allegiance was not to the country, but the constitution that validates the existence of the nation. The formation of the oath and its amendments has been undertaken with the utmost gravity and diligence to ensure a firm foundation for the men and women who have and continue to make the sacrifice of service.
Break down each segment of the oath and explain what it means to you.
The Oath of Enlistment begins with the enlisted stating their name and solemnly swearing to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This beginning is significant because it shows the individuality of service in the statement of name and the promise to protect not a fleeting symbol or leader, but the permanent entity of the Constitution of the United States; without which there would not be a nation to protect.
Next, the oath continues to support and defend “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This promise of protection is a important because it specifies enemies both external and internal providing allegiance to the whole of the nation and not a faction of its population.
The oath continues “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same” showing that it is an oath undertaken independently to support liberty through actions taken by the individual.
Next the oath continues “and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me” demonstrates submission to higher command and a promise to follow orders thereof. Because the oath previously acknowledged the supremacy of the constitution within which grants the highest military power to the president, the oath is justified in this command to accession. It also provides a legal order of responsibility for military organization which members of the military are to respect.
The last part “according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice” is a promise to uphold the rules of the military and respect their authority. It is a statement of compliance to keep order within the service and ensure that all actions executed by service members are in accordance with expected conduct standards.
The oath concludes with the statement “So help me God” showing the significance of the commitment just made and the consequences of not abiding by the oath. It is a summons to integrity with consequences more extreme than mere physical ramifications. It is also a plea for divine assistance for a task that is too difficult for men alone to undertake, an encouragement of justice and freedom which are sacred and righteous ideals.
The Oath of Enlistment was created not as a fancy addition to service but a serious commitment to service. Its creation and modification has provided a well worded and just statement that all is deserving of the members of the military who devote their lives to it. The Oath of Enlistment is a steadfast foundation which a legacy of outstanding service has been built upon.
(Editor’s Note: Branson Globe hopes have enjoyed reading the thoughts of Ben Walworth, Garrett Wicker, and Rae Woods, and will wish them well in their future endeavors. Thanks to Scholarship Chairman Bob Sarver of Vietnam Veterans of America 913 for sharing the essays with Branson Globe)