That I Will Support and Defend

Sixteen years ago, I raised my right hand at Fort McPherson, Georgia and said these words:

I, [state your name], having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of First Lieutenant, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.

Since then, we have had national elections every two years. I have served under 3 presidents and 9 congresses (well, 8 plus a few days of a 9th). Today, we elect the 10th congress that will take its seat in January. As I write this, balloting is ongoing and I do not know which party will control the House or Senate. What I do know is that whoever wins, I and my fellow service members will continue to serve the Constitution.

One of the strengths of our military-political system is the subordination of the armed forces to civilian control. I don’t serve in a Republican army or a Democrat army, but in the Army of the United States. The members of the armed forces don’t make policy; we implement it – often at great cost. There are times that service members may disagree with civilian leadership, but we do it in the same way that every other citizen does: at the ballot box, and not at the point of the spear. Citizen-Soldiers get one vote, just like every other citizen.

The President and Congress set the policies for foreign relations and national defense. Support for these policies is never unanimous. Some citizens may want uniformed service members to become their allies in foreign policy and national defense disputes. Be careful what you wish for. A military force that steps in as your ally today may step in as your opponent tomorrow. This is exactly what happens in some nations in the world, where armies overthrow governments that displease them. May that never be so for us. The people of the United States deserve a military force that is their servant and not their master. We count on you, the people of the United States, to make good decisions.

Whether the men and women for whom I voted today win or lose, I will continue to serve the people of the United States by executing the directions of the Constitutional powers they elect.

This we’ll defend.

UPDATE 8 Nov 06: I guess I can now add that I have now served under five six secretaries of defense.

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