The Oath


The flags along our street stand at “Parade Rest” on this overcast Veteran’s Day. A colorful, but mute, sign of respect, of acknowledgment to those who have (or are currently serving) served in the armed forces.

I was sitting in one of the old canvas folding chairs in our garage, having a smoke looking out toward the street, lost in thought about the day … when an old familiar presence made itself known.

“Attention on Deck!!”

I jumped to my feet. Even after being away from life in a uniform for over thirteen years, old reflexes and old habits die slowly if at all. With a chuckle, the mental metaphysical prankster, said “At Ease sailor”. I sat down in the chair, ears a bit red, and smiled.

“Well THAT was a hell of an entrance! Hello dad, wasn’t expecting you to pop in today, what’s up?”

Dad, comfortable in his favorite chair, cigar in one hand, scotch in the other, smiled again; “I need a reason to see my sons? Thought I would drop by and see how you were doing, and today seemed like the perfect day for it.”

“Well, it’s good to “see” you too, Just sitting here reflecting on the day, and on how much things have changed since I entered in the service …”

“And on what my grandson is experiencing right now in Boot Camp up at Great Lakes?”, Dad said, finishing my thought.

“Yeah. Just got a letter from Pat, day before yesterday, trying to figure out what to write back about.”

“Well, I am sure anything you put down on paper will be well received. You must still remember what it felt like to get mail from friends and family while in Boot Camp. It didn’t really matter what was written, what really mattered was the time was taken to send something. Matter of fact, that was much the same feeling we had, back when I did my time with the Air Force. I imagine your uncles felt the same way too back durring their days as recruits in the Marines and Army.”

Dad paused, took a puff on the cigar, followed by a sip of scotch; “You know your mother and I were very proud of you, despite your mom’s concerns about service life. How do you feel about Pat joining?”

“I have told him I am proud of him. But it is more then just a parental pride, more then the pride of having a son follow in choosing the same branch of service I did. And this may take some time, because it didn’t really sink in with me, until I had done it a couple of times over and above the first enlistment … but a pride in knowing, and I can only assume Pat will develop this, if he in fact re-enlists at some point down the road, what the oath of enlistment is really demanding of you.”

“What are you driving at son?”, I could see my dads brows furled a bit

It is what separates the military member from the civilian. with the possible exception of those who are police or firemen. The oath.

I, (NAME), 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.

“You are literally giving up your individual freedoms, suborning yourself to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, vice the very contract between a peoples and their government, the Constitution, in order to protect and defend it. You are placing yourself in to a group which pledges to, if it comes to it, give ‘that last full measure of devotion’ in order to honor the oath you took. The only other group of individuals who come to mind in taking any sort of oath which may come close to rivaling that are police, and firemen”

“Oh sure, Pat is probably not going to be in any direct line of fire, especially in the career path he has chosen, but the chance however remote, is there. And he has sworn an oath to do what ever needs to be done to ‘protect and defend’, should it come to that. It is this intentionally honored commitment toward something greater than self which separates Patrick, his fellow service members of all stripes, and even all the veterans out there, from the civilian population at large.”

Dad looked up from his glass. “So you’re saying you hope, if Pat hasn’t done so already, that he will understand the gravity of the oath he has taken, that it is not something in effect from “nine to five”, but an obligation, freely taken, which stays with you perhaps even past the end of an enlistment or future retirement? That the measure of pride you have in him, is as much pride of one member of the service “fraternity” toward another, as it is from a father to a son.”

“Sheesh, I take a couple of paragraphs, and you nail it in a couple of sentences! Thanks Dad.”

“Even though I was only in for a couple of years, I have that same sense of pride toward both you and my grandson. Thank you both for carrying the torch.”

“I wonder if there will be a fourth generation member in the family, who will wear the uniform someday?”

Dad got a wistful look in his eye, and considering his ectoplasmic state, a tad transparent … “Damn son, you have to warn me when you say things like that! If I get to thinking about ‘the other side’ and what the future might have in store for you or the grandkids, I tend to get sucked right back up outta the here and now. Can’t really be in two places at once, that’s waaaay beyond my paygrade. Even if I knew the answer to that, and not saying that I do, I would not be surprised at all, in seeing more uniforms on future family members. But I am not going to say anything more then that.”

My father, my mental specter, gathered himself together. His cigar, now noticeably shorter, his glass closer to empty than full, stood up from his ectoplasmic easy chair.

“Son, time for me to head out. Give my best to everyone, and give all the grandsons a hug from me the next time you see them. I expect we will have another Petty Officer in the family with in the next couple of years, if his training goes smoothly enough?”

It was my turn to chuckle. “Yeah that is a very real possibility. Chances are he will be advancing at a much faster rate than his old man ever did. He has the smarts, and the common sense. I would be willing to bet if he stays in for a couple of enlistments, he will make Chief Petty Officer in record time as well, maybe even go “mustang”. But that will be his choices and his opportunities to make of what he will.”

Dad smiled. “I have faith in Pat, and in all the men and women who accept and wear, or have worn, the mantle of guardian/warrior. And in case I haven’t said so, thanks for your service son. And be sure to thank Patrick for me.”

Before I could respond, as quickly as he had popped in, he was gone. There was the faint but noticeable oder of cigar smoke in the garage. It had been awhile, but it was good to hear from Dad again. Though he had served a few short years, his status as a vet was every bit as honorable and legitimate as my “career”, and his grandsons first active duty steps toward same. It felt good to be reminded of that, to know there are vets out there who did not see action, but did their duty with honor and to the best of their ability.

To all who served or or still serving, for all who have “taken the oath” , especially on this day of remembrance, you are not forgotten.

Thank you“.

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13 Comments

Filed under Harbor Life, Military, Scribbles

13 responses to “The Oath

  1. There’s something in this current generation puts us old Boomers to shame. Gives me hope for the future of the Republic, it does. Best to your son.

    M

    • At first blush, I would agree with you Mark, but considering we lost at least 50,ooo good men out South East Asia way, not to mention the hundreds of thousands (of which I was but a very small part of) who served any where from two to twenty years (or more) between the 60’s and the turn of the century … I don’t know if that holds water.

      Perhaps having a media which staunchly supported the anti-war sentiment, especially in the late 60’s to at least the late 70’s. And having the loudest (and thus the most visible) voices of “our generation” in lockstep with the anti-war/anti-establishment movement (and again with at least partial media support and approval), I can see where this would cause one to think the boomers were for the most part a bunch of less then sterling characters.

      The older I get the more I wonder if there were far more of our generation who quietly went about living their lives, doing their jobs (including serving their country), maturing (How many of us were “hippies” or “wanna-be” hippies in our teens and very early 20’s, but grew to be a hell of a lot more conservative in our views … at least toward the core values of this country … than we would have ever imagined when we were 18?), and raising families of our own. I am willing to bet we would far outnumber the progressives (from our generation) at least 2 to 1, perhaps even 3 to 1.

      Could our generation have done better? With all we were blessed with, with our being born at perhaps the zenith of our nation’s and civilization’s economic, political, and cultural prowess. You’re damn right we could (and should) have.

      What perhaps amazes me the most about my sons generation, is that there are as many outstanding men and women as there are, considering how much was squandered by so many of our generation.

      Finally, thank you for the kind words for Patrick.
      He is now midway through Navy basic training. And judging from his letter, he is still fully functional. However, I will not take any bets as to whether or not he will ask us to “Pass the f**king potatoes please.” the next time we have dinner together.

      And thanks for stopping by! Had not intended to be so long winded in responding, you may have touched on something I had not realized was there.

  2. What, pray tell me, did we swear that OATH to? The pResident? The Congress? First and foremost, to support and defend the Constitution against ALL enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC. When those in formal position above us violate the Constitution, they become domestic enemies to be removed and imprisoned or otherwise dealt with. Especially those who swear that oath and then immediately violate it. I’m very happy you put this up this time. I forget how many times I have. Thank you.

    • CM, having the middle son join the Navy, and knowing of at least one other blogger who had their son go the same route, brought all this back to me.

      We have talked before about the Oath, and that most who have had the honor to repeat it on any number of re-enlistments, come to realize it is as much akin to a “calling”, that the Oath stays with you long after you have retired your particular uniform, and formal commitment to a branch of service.

      • BTW, I had a “son” who was/is a Marine, and another Army. My blood son is, how you say, patriotic resistance.

        And there is no “Statute of Limitations” on the OATH.

  3. I believe there has always been an iron core to America, one that doesn’t call attention to itself but keeps on keeping on the way it always has done. From that iron core come those who serve.
    What rating is he going for?

    • Larry, He qualified, and was accepted to the Navy Nuke program. As far as rating(s), he is leaning towards EM, but ET is his second choice. Assuming he doesn’t complete the training, his future is pretty much secured in or out of the Navy. Kid must have got the smarts from his mom *grin*.

      • Sheesh that will teach me to respond to a comment as I am finishing a morning cup o coffee, just before heading out the door to work.

        Should have read “Assuming he doesn’t run into any hitches in completing his Nuke training …”

  4. Good on him! I qualified for the nuke program, but this old Iowa boy has got to see the sun. I went airdale instead.

    • I went the same direction, actually had the chance to go to college on the Navy’s dime, very early on in my career (just prior to my “A” school as a matter of fact) but knew at that point in time I would have partied more then I would have hit the books. Looking back I prob should have taken them up on the deal, though it still makes me shudder to think I would have been, at some point “Ensign Sochor”.

  5. I come back and read this again, and it makes me proud all over again. My only question being “When will we take our nation back from those who would destroy it?”. Our OATH was to the Constitution first and foremost, everything after that was subsequental. If those appointed above us are enemies to The Constitution, it is our sworn duty to remove them from power for the good of said Constitution.

    • We have our “Tea Party”, one wonders when we will hear our “shot fired ’round the world”, and if there will be a lone keeper of his (or her) Oath who will take that first step. And how many will forsake their creature comforts, their families, and possibly their lives, in once again answering the call.

  6. Sis

    Thanks bro – that was really nice.

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