Chapter 1

Chapter 1. America’s sons and daughters

(This is a selected passage from Chapter 1)

“I do solemnly swear 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.”

Oath of Enlistment, Armed Forces of the United States

A 2014 Harris Poll asked 2,537 adults in the United States what occupations have great prestige. Military service ranked in the top ten, keeping company with firefighters and police officers, nurses and doctors, clergy, scientists and engineers. It is good to find military service in such esteemed company, for each of these occupations contributes a unique and critical service for the greater good of America and its citizens. All are respected for the dedication and commitment they require.

There is a school of thought that military service is a higher calling, and this Harris Poll reinforces this belief. Duty. Honor. Country. These three words are recognized hallmarks of military service and help to define its purpose and identity. When young men and women commit to joining the military, they become part of a purpose greater than themselves. America and its allies rely on our military to protect the peace and, when necessary, defend us from threats and attacks.

I believe military service is a higher calling, and I suspect you may agree with me. Some of you reading this book—Vietnam veterans and family members who served and suffered through years of collective disrespect—can rest easier now, knowing that military service is garnering the respect and admiration it has always deserved.

The Oath of Enlistment and the Oath of Office

By federal law, every man or woman who enlists, or re-enlists, in the U.S. Armed Forces takes an oath of allegiance. Enlisted service members take the oath of enlistment that began this chapter. Officers take the oath of office, which is similar in wording to the oath of enlistment, but also makes reference to the responsibilities of leadership.

The National Guard oaths of enlistment and office are similar to the service branch oaths, but also include allegiance to the state and the state’s governor, in addition to the federal allegiance to the Constitution and the president.

What these oaths mean

If you look closely at the wording of these oaths, you will see an impressive description of an impressive job. But, as every person who has worn the uniform or loved a service member knows, military service is more than just a job. It’s a commitment and a sacrifice. It’s service to our country, by preserving the rights, freedoms and values found in our Constitution, the foundation of our American way of life. It’s protecting our way of life, our national interests and our homeland, and defending it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It doesn’t matter what uniform your child wore, or what specialty, code or classification he or she held; each and every job in the military contributes, in some way, to the protection and preservation of America.

Who knew the son who needed prodding to take out the garbage would one day raise his right hand and voluntarily swear to protect and defend America?

America has had an all-volunteer military since the draft ended in 1973. Simply said, no member of the armed forces wears the uniform against his or her will. Every U.S. service member willingly raised his or her right hand and, in the presence of a commissioned officer, swore to protect and defend America. Your child chose this path and committed to a block of service time, even when other employment or career options were available. Who knew the son who needed prodding to take out the garbage would one day raise his right hand and voluntarily swear to protect and defend America?


“I told my child, if that’s what you want to do, then go for it.”

A Parent’s Reaction

America loves a man or woman in uniform, and military parents are on top of that list—they really love their sons and daughters in uniform. If you’re like most parents, your child’s decision to enlist unleashed an assortment of feelings, for protecting our country is a dangerous profession, either in peacetime or war. How you felt and what you thought about your child’s decision likely covered a pretty wide range of feelings—from surprise to pride to terror—and everything in-between, depending on the day, the circumstance and which way the wind was blowing. There is no denying we live in a post-9/11 world. For those whose children entered the military since then, the reality of homeland terrorist attacks and the continuing wars abroad likely factored into your opinion about your son or daughter donning the uniform.

America loves a man or woman in uniform, and military parents are on top of that list —they really love their sons and daughters in uniform.


“I was so proud. Then I was worried.”

America’s sons and daughters

Who are the sons and daughters of America, those who have given their lives in service to our country? They are your children: your sons and daughters.

You knew them as only a parent can know his or her child: you appreciated the strengths and quirks of his personality, you read the expressions on her face, and you recognized the obvious and not-so- obvious potential every son or daughter possesses.

America knew your children, too. She recognized them, even when she didn’t know their names. To her they were:

  • the skinny kid who delivered newspapers
  • the high school graduate who was profoundly affected by the 9/11 attacks
  • the young father in need of a steady paycheck in a bad economy
  • the daughter who joined the Navy, just like “dear ol’ Dad”
  • the hell-raising teen who flunked out of college
  • the young man who always wanted to be a soldier
  • the newest graduate of the Air Force Academy
  • the first-generation immigrant son, looking to make his family proud
  • the son who followed in dad’s Marine Corps footsteps
  • the graduate of the school of “tough love”
  • the mom whose National Guard unit was federally activated
  • the middle-aged reservist recalled to active duty
  • the college grad who chose the military over a promising civilian career
  • the father who wanted to show his kids he could make a difference

These are a few of your children, and they’re among the best America has offered to an often- troubled world.

The price of freedom

There’s an old quote that sums up the depth of a service member’s commitment. It’s an anonymous quote, which in its humble way makes it applicable to every service member and veteran:

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount of up to and including his or her life.”

Source Unknown

It’s a powerful message within a sobering statement. And it’s true. Every service member knows the day may come when he or she will find himself or herself in harm’s way and perilously close to that fine line between life and death. It’s a risk they chose to live with. In spite of the risks, our military men and women expect to live to a ripe old age. Sometimes, though, life doesn’t turn out the way it’s planned.