I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United State 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.
I took that oath as a very young man and served as a Security Policeman in the United States Air Force during the Cold War. My service was stateside, but like every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and man and woman serving the Coast Guard, as I willingly and proudly took that oath, I was writing a blank check in any amount up to and including my life. I didn’t realize that then—not really—but as I took similar oaths post-military as a police officer, and as I watched over the years a seemingly unending train of flag-draped caskets returning from foreign lands, I came to cherish not only my service, but my good fortune to have served, and survived. Far too many of our actual, not self-imagined, best and brightest have not.
Over a long and adventurous life, I’ve seen many commanders in chief. Some were worthy of the role, and of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. They truly cared for servicemen and women, and understood the depth of the sacred responsibility with which they had been entrusted. Our service people know, beyond any doubt, who truly cares about them, who truly values their service and sacrifice, and their lives.
They also know who sees them as disposable, as little more than useful props for photo opportunities.
‘My Job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.’
President Donald J. Trump
During my career teaching in Texas, I was fortunate to work at a school with a truly outstanding NROTC program. Run by Lt. Col. James Davidson (USMC ret.) and Master Chief Charles Linville (USN ret.), it was award winning on a national scale, and always sent cadets to our service academies. As I watched the kids, many of them my students, learn military custom and discipline, grow in maturity and confidence, I often swelled with pride and brushed away a tear. As long as we produce such as they, America has a future.
Those kids are a part of a long, unbroken line extending back to the Colonies, a tradition of sacrifice and excellence, of prevailing against all odds, and of, at key points in history, actually saving the world to preserve liberty, always at terrible cost. In so doing, we have asked for nothing more of those we saved than the land necessary to bury our dead. Many of those we saved have never forgiven us for doing what they could not, yet we protect them still.
On this Veteran’s Day, 2020, we face an uncertain future. Our foreign wars are winding down, our terrorist enemy largely defeated, though certainly never obliterated, and more and more of our service members most directly in harm’s way have been coming home. Yet, foreign enemies always work to dominate the world, and domestic uncertainty wracks our nation, making the future of our military and Republic hard to grasp. For four years, our service branches have been largely rebuilt and had the equipment, supplies and support they’ve needed, but so much more is necessary to preserve our future security, and that is not guaranteed. Will the next four years see a return to the Obama years, where our military was largely turned into a social experimentation laboratory?
Let us turn, as I often have, to the Gettysburg Address, delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Edward Everett, a very accomplished man, was the featured speaker. Well known as a great orator, perhaps the greatest of his day, he spoke for more than two hours. No one recalls what he said that day. Abraham Lincoln spoke for less than two minutes. Everett, to his everlasting credit, wrote to Lincoln and asking for a copy of his speech, saying Lincoln, in just a few minutes, spoke more fittingly than he. Lincoln’s response is one of five handwritten copies of the speech in existence. I’ll think you’ll find it not only appropriate for the day, but eerily prescient of our current domestic conflict.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Regardless what the future holds, we too must resolve that every veteran shall not have died in vain. We must ever honor them, living or dead. We too must support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and we too must ensure that the nation—the idea and noble experiment—for which they sacrificed so much, and for which so many gave their last, full measure of devotion, shall not have died in vain.
It’s little to ask to honor those who have given everything that we might have such abundance, and to ensure a United States of America still lives that liberty might live—so help us God.