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Words we live by

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rene M. Leon
  • 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
By the time this commentary is printed, our nation will have sworn in a new president.

The inauguration of any new American president is an historical event and accompanied by a lot of pomp and circumstance. Undoubtedly, this year's inauguration deserves a special place in the history of our nation. Yet, through all of the media hype this week, I hope we don't lose sight of the importance and solemn significance of the actual oath our president takes that we in the military share.

While the enlisted, officer and presidential oaths differ slightly, the core remains the same. We all, even the president, give our word to uphold the set of ideals that define us as a nation, written in our Constitution.

Often times we in the military don't take time to think about what our oath means. Since it can take as little as 30 seconds, we miss its importance or maybe even dismiss it as just another bureaucratic hurdle -- but it isn't. It's backed by the power and authority of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and by the even greater influence of our military heritage, our peers and the sacrifices that we have all made, both great and small. The ceremony itself can be as grand as a presidential inauguration, as large as the mass oaths during basic training, or as simple as catching whichever officer happens to be around so the paperwork can be legal. Regardless of the ceremonial surroundings, the oath's impact and significance should not be diminished.

I had the honor of reenlisting one of my Airmen the same morning our new president took his office. One man will swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" for at least four years. The other will "support and defend" that very same Constitution "against all enemies" for at least six years. One ceremony will be done on the steps of the nation's Capitol and will be watched by millions of people around the world. The other will be done in a hangar on Hurlburt Field and witnessed by family and a few friends. Both should be equally important to the individuals taking the oath and to the nation they serve.

Our oath is a source of strength for our military institution. It's these words that we live by that have us scattered around the globe in sometimes desolate and dangerous places. It's what binds all of us no matter what our religious or political beliefs are and it's something that we should spend at least a couple of minutes thinking about before we sign on the dotted line.

The peaceful transition of power occurring in our nation this week is a testament to the strength of our Constitution and the ideals set within it. It's one outcome of the "American Experiment" in governance that started a little more than 200 years ago. Our military has helped this experiment survive through several wars, both hot and cold, and we continue to stand and fight those who threaten the ideals we cherish and have sworn our lives to uphold.

Our oath shouldn't be taken lightly under any circumstances, presidential or otherwise, and I think a presidential inauguration is a perfect time to reflect on these words that we have sworn to live by.