Friday, May 26, 2017
Here's what you owe the fallen
And so it begins. Memorial Day coincides with the beginning of summer. Here in Kimball the kids have been released from scholastic durance vile and they're diving headlong into the warmth of sunlight and freedom. I remember what that felt like, and as I look at the clusters of running, biking, adventuring boys and girls I can't help but smile and feel good.
I can turn on a picture show in my head and review each and every one of the fallen men and women who I actually laid my hands on. There are so many of them!
The weight of those lost lives has been a hard, hard burden to bear. I'm very fortunate, though, for I have lived long enough now to have worked through my often self-centered grief and emerge with clear eyes and what I believe to be the proper perspective for a sovereign citizen of these United States. Perhaps I am on the cusp of attaining wisdom.
Here’s what you owe to the fallen.
Memorial Day will be observed on Monday, May 29. This is a day set aside to honor those Americans who have fallen in service to their country. To date, more than 1,196,541 have fallen during war time, and some tens of thousands during peacetime.
What do you owe these men and women?
First of all, you must recognize that the debt you owe is a debt which can only be settled in kind. Those men and women gave every single thing they had, and every single thing they could ever have, to their nation. Only those who also fall in service can fully retire their debt.
You owe them that understanding.
Secondly, you need to understand what they fell in service of. No American service member has ever fought for a king, or for the government, or for congress. No American serviceman has ever fought for their state or their town or their friends and neighbors or even for their family. A sincere desire to serve and protect these things -- with the exception of a king, obviously -- was certainly a major factor in every service member's decision to serve. But those things are not what they served.
What all American service members have always formally and officially served are the principles and ideas and ideals that define our nation. American service members have always sworn an oath of service, and it has never been to our geographical or political nation. The oath has always been to something much larger than population and geography.
The first American oath of service was part of the act which created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775 (exactly two years before the US Flag was adopted -- a bit of off-topic historical trivia).
In this first oath a soldier swore to "bind myself" to the rules and regulations "as are, or shall be, established for the government of the said Army." Though not explicitly stated in the oath, these men were aligning themselves with the effort to overthrow the rule of a tyrant monarch and establish a nation based on the principle that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights which transcend human governance.
These principles were formally established and published for the world to know on July 4, 1776.
The original oath was replaced by Section 3, Article 1, of the Articles of War approved by Congress on 20 September 1776:
"I _____ swear (or affirm as the case may be) to be trued to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies opposers whatsoever; and to observe and obey the orders of the Continental Congress, and the orders of the Generals and officers set over me by them."
In swearing to be "trued to the United States of America" these men were swearing allegiance to to the principles enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.
Since 1789 each service member has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, which enumerates and codifies the principles and ideas upon which our nation is formed. The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress on September 29, 1789. This oath applied to all commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States.
"I, _____, do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the constitution of the United States. I, _____, do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and to observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over me."
Although the wording has changed somewhat over the years, the core of the oath remains the same; support and defense of the Constitution of the United States, true faith and allegiance to the principles and ideas of the nation, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and military superiors.
"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."
"I, _____, having been appointed an officer...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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation 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."
This then is the reality. America’s fighting men and women have not and do not fight for you as an individual. They have not and do not fight for your freedom or to keep you safe. Those things are for each individual sovereign American citizen to preserve. America’s fighting men and women fight to support and defend the Constitution, which codifies the heart of our nation -- her principles and her ideals.
Therefore, to America’s fallen, you owe the responsibility to understand what they actually fell in service of.
You owe them that.
You must also understand that no American service member has ever fallen in vain, nor were any their deaths meaningless. They fell in defense of the Constitution, the codified embodiment of this nation’s principles and ideals, which a fallen Commander In Chief (can you figure out which one?) called the last, best hope of Earth. You owe them that understanding.
You owe them that.
You owe them the effort of understanding and thinking deeply about what America is in fact and in reality. You owe them to be the best and most principled American you can be. You owe them to do what another fallen Commander In Chief once famously suggested, to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
You owe them that.
You also owe the fallen this. You must do your best to practice the First Principle of our Nation in all of your affairs. You must embrace and practice the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable natural rights. You must understand that the fallen were men and women just like you, not better human beings, not worse human beings, but equal to you as you are equal to them. Only in this way can you gain a bit of understanding as to the magnitude of their sacrifice.
You owe them that.
You must understand that the sacrifice of the fallen is part of the price paid to give you title, free and clear, to the blessings of Liberty. You must understand that this gift is above any mortal gift bestowed by any tribe or government throughout the long history of mankind. You must understand that the government of the United States does not give you this gift either, that the government is formally constrained from interfering with or usurping your unalienable natural rights. You must understand that no, you don't have a special deal, and no, you don't deserve anything above and beyond the blessing you already own. This understanding you owe to the fallen.
Finally, you must live your life. You must embrace the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, of the life you have. You must do this because the fallen cannot, because they sacrificed every single thing they had to preserve and protect and support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
These things you owe the fallen.