When I was 20 years old I dropped out of college and joined the US Army. I didn’t have any strong sense of duty. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were far off in an unimaginable future. The Vietnam war was still raging, and kids were trying to get out of joining up, not volunteering, but I was a woman and didn’t have to worry about fighting or getting killed. Not back then. I thought I’d get paid to see the world while I was figuring out life.
So in 1972 I raised my right hand and took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”. I didn’t vow loyalty to any monarch or president, or swear to protect any people, or even any chunk of land. I swore I would give my life to supporting and defending an idea. When I said those words, a chill ran through me, like a jot of electricity. I was too young to truly know what those words meant, but as the years went by I grew to understand more and more of their significance.
Those words spoke of the desire of people to be free, to live in peace and happiness, to be allowed to choose their religion, their government, their way of life. They wanted to be able to speak out freely. The men who wrote those words struggled long and hard over them, not only to enumerate all the things they did want, but also to give succeeding generations the framework upon which to grow and develop, to support a vision of what government could and should be when it benefitted all of its citizens.
When Cee was distressed by the results of our election on Tuesday, and frightened for what this meant for our future, I told her that I placed my faith not in people, but in the constitution and its ideas.
Clearly, we have serious problems in this country when any election can generate such passion and fear both here and around the world. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and how well we can come together to support and defend each other will tell the true story of our nation.
Today is Veterans Day in the United States. To all of my active duty brothers and sisters, and to all of my fellow veterans, I salute you for having the courage to raise your hand and swear on your life that you will support and defend an idea. Thank you.