April 24th, 1972: The Oath

April 24th, 1972 is a day that I first raised my hand.

Like most kids, I was cocky, self centered, in too much of a hurry to be grown up and not as disciplined as I should have been. But everything began to change on that day. Up until that point, my recruiter had been the face of the Navy . He was a Senior Chief Machinist Mate named James Dotson and he was the head recruiter out of the McKeesport Pennsylvania office.

I actually signed the initial paperwork on April 19th with Mom and Dad having to sign as well. I was only seventeen. The swearing in occurred a few days later in Pittsburgh at the MEPS station in the Federal Building. That was my first exposure to standing in line at attention. It was also a chance to figure out that this was definitely different than hanging out with my friends. Even though it was the screening phase, I sensed that a higher level of discipline was coming. My Dad had been in the Navy in World War 2 so he told me the day before about not being so mouthy or they would let me know what was what in a hurry.

After a full day of testing and examinations to determine that I had all of the correct parts for a male wanting to join the illustrious Navy, they herded us all into a room with 1960’s paneling, an American and a Navy Flag placed next to a rostrum, and only one door besides the one we entered. Mom and Dad entered that door along with a few other parents and girlfriends. We all lined up at the “X” marks on the floor facing the front and stood at what passed for attention until the officer came in. I do not remember the short speech he made but it had something to do with repeating the oath and understanding what it would mean for the journey we were about to begin. I also vaguely remember him saying that it was something we should do with no reservations. I looked over at my Mom and she had a handkerchief in her hand to wipe away the wetness from her eyes.

He asked us to raise our right arms. A voice inside was telling me that this was a bigger deal than it seemed a few days before when I signed the first paperwork. That day, April 19, was my Dad’s birthday. He had been in boot camp for his eighteenth birthday.

Repeat after me

“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.”

Memorial Day 1972

73 words not counting the enlistee’s name.

Such simple words with such profound meanings. I was an ignorant teenager the first time I held my right arm in the air to repeat those words on April 24th, 1972.

Boot Camp Year Book

 

Like most kids, I may have read bits and pieces of the Constitution during my years of school, but I couldn’t tell you much about the specific sections.For the record, I swore. I swore each time I reenlisted and I certainly swore when I became a Chief Warrant Officer. Every man and woman I reenlisted chose to swear as well. I would actually ask them in private before their ceremony which they preferred and asked them about what they thought it meant.

Hunley Reenlistment 1993-2

I will support and defend the Constitution:

Supporting it means that I will follow it and expect my leaders to set examples that are worthy of its intent. There are three branches of government to maintain a balance in the way things are done. That balance ensures that none of the three gain too much power. If the Executive Branch tries to usurp the legitimate power of either of the other two, it must be held to account. It’s harder to govern that way, but it gives a greater chance that the will of the people will not be over-ridden in the process. The balance works equally across all three branches. That is the beauty of the Republic that we live in.

“I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same”

with the exception of anything contradictory under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Unless the UCMJ is ultimately proven to be wrong such as Article 125 concerning Sodomy. (This is still sort of a family blog so you will have to look that one up to see what formerly was not a “Best Practice”).

“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.”

The President is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Whether you like them or not, you are taking a solemn oath to obey their orders. In a civilized society, this is an important rule in order for the military to be able to perform its sworn duty and follow the Constitution.

019_16A

Without this clause, there could be chaos. With this clause, there could be a form of tyranny. We might see helicopters with armed men flying over major cities. We might see armored vehicles routinely travelling the highways of America. The military could relieve local and state officials in the case of an emergency proclamation that is created by a large crisis.

So help me God

Mister Mac

 

I humbly thank the men and women of the United States Navy who taught me about freedom and service during the past forty eight years.

I am even more grateful to those who continue to serve in stormy seas, turbulent skies, and hostile lands everywhere in the name of freedom.

8 thoughts on “April 24th, 1972: The Oath

  1. The oath of office of the President of the United States is an oath or affirmation required by the United States Constitution before the President begins the execution of the office. The wording is specified in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight:

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States
    ++++++
    Thirty five words – less than half of the Armed Forces Enlisted Oath (not counting the National Guard). What sticks out to me is that is says “to the best of my ability” – so what if it is not ? If the military violate their oath, it’s fairly tangible and accountable. But for the office of the POTUS, looks like you can just say – well, I did my best, sorry about the outcome, thanks for 4-8 years of service – ‘preciate the pension, see ya ’round the book signing/speech giving circuit !

    Just my humble opinion.

  2. I haven’t said those words in 39 years, but the importance of them is still a guiding principal of how I support my country. BZ Mac.

  3. Reblogged this on theleansubmariner and commented:

    First published in 2012 when I started theleansubmariner blog. Updated to 2020 to mark the 48th anniversary of the day I took my oath to defend this nation. This is the 900’th posting on the blog.

  4. It was 50 years ago on 15 April that I took the oath with 28 other men. One man other than me was joining the Navy and other 27 were all draftees being inducted in the Army. The officer who administered the oath explained bit about what the oath meant before he swore us in. He then asked the two of us (now sailors what we were smiling about) and my fellow sailor said because we were excited about joining the Navy.

  5. I wonder if my husband was your company commander? Walter Simpson, he was there in 1972 in Great Lakes Illinois, he took my son who was only a toddler to work with him a couple of days as I was in hospital giving birth to our daughter, if you remember the little boy with the sailor suit on who was in all the photo.s of his company that would be him, I remember he brought home all the guys hats for me to put in the washing machine! also I was one of two women who made the flags for graduation, Cecilia Simpson

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