On September 6, 1984, I was standing in the Barnes Building in Boston. I was with some 100 others who had just signed contracts to enlist in the United States Army. The room was festooned with the flag of our country and the flags of the various branches of service. At the front of the room was a podium where, in a few moments, a uniformed officer would stand and ask us to raise our right hands. We were asked, the last time we would be asked to do anything, to form lines and put our bags and whatnot on the floor. I was scared.
The officer came in a greeted us, and, as I previously mentioned, asked us to raise our right hands. He then proceeded to administer the oath of enlistment.
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.”
With those words I became a soldier in the United States Army.
Three years later, I left active duty and enlisted in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Once again, I raised my right hand and swore that same oath with the additional words to obey the Governor of Massachusetts and support and defend the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Constitution. That was 1987, and I served off and on until 2004.
On September 22, 2010 I once again raised my right hand a swore an oath:
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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
I was being commissioned into the Organized Militia of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As with my enlistment in the Guard several years before, the words about the Governor and the Constitution of the Commonwealth were added.
It has now been almost 37 years since I raised my right hand on that September afternoon, but I still take that first oath’s obligation as a sacred responsibility. Just because someone is no longer serving in uniform, that oath remains sacred.
January 6, 2021, was a dark day in the history of the United States of America. Without trying to make sense of it all, I will admit that I was shocked and horrified as I watched people storm and occupy the Capitol of the United States. I am saddened by the loss of the Capitol Police Officer’s life as well as all of those who died. None of it had to happen.
But what has saddened me more since that day is to learn that veterans of the military of the United States of America and, it is reported, present members of the military were part of what happened. All of them swore the same oath I did, and their actions have disrespected the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have served their country honorably over the last 200 years plus of this country’s existence. All of them should have known better.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Everyone is entitled to make speeches and attend rallies. That is why I served, to protect that right for all people, not just the ones I agree with, but actions have consequences, and the moment you breached the capitol, you became an enemy of the United States of America!
That oath is a sacred responsibility that does not end when we hang up our uniform for the last time. That oath stays with us for our entire life. I guess that oath they swore meant nothing to them, and that is what makes me sad.