McCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.–I have been asked many times throughout my career why I joined the military.
I typically answer, “For fortune and glory, isn’t that why everyone joined?”
My response usually gets a little chuckle, which lasts long enough for me to change the subject. I change the subject because I don’t believe why a person choses to serve is relevant. Each individual should have their own purpose for serving, and I don’t believe one reason is better than the next. So, if why someone choses to serve isn’t all that important, what is? There are three things I believe truly matter.
First and foremost is the person volunteered. They were not coerced, threatened and they joined of their own free will. When a person raises their right hand and recites the oath, they join an elite group of men and women, and I don’t want anyone in uniform who is not serving of their own volition.
The second thing I care about is that our military men and women give their very best every single day. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to be a little better than the day before: to get right today what was wrong yesterday, to clearly communicate today what could not be communicated yesterday, to achieve today those things that were unachievable yesterday.
The final thing I believe is that each individual should clearly understands what they got themselves into. Does the individual have an understanding of the oath they have taken and does it mean something to them, or is it just a bunch of words they parrot? I am sometimes a little slow on the uptake, so it took me several re-enlistments to truly grasp the magnitude of what I got myself into. I figured out the oath of enlistment when I personalized the phrases and was able to recite the oath without crib notes.
This is my version of the oath of enlistment:
“I, Shawn Michael Hughes (me, myself, and I), do solemnly swear (my word is my bond, on my mother’s grave, cross my heart hope to die stick a needle in my eye) that I (not my brother or sister, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, or any other person I pass on the street) will support and defend (stand with, guard, preserve, protect, fight for and if necessary die for) the Constitution of the United States (an “Idea” for a better government of the people, by the people, for the people, fueled by The Declaration of Independence which hinges on the idea that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, which was won through sacrifices and blood of ordinary citizens during extraordinary times) against all enemies, foreign and domestic (I don’t care who you are or where you come from, if you threaten the “Idea” you are an enemy); that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same (I believe in and am loyal to the Constitution); and that I will obey the orders (directives, guidance) of the President of the United States (the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces) and the orders of the officers appointed over me (every officer regardless of my personal feelings or opinions), according to regulations (written military operating guidelines and rules) and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (laws that govern military moral and ethical behaviors necessary for the good order and discipline of a fighting force). So help me God.” (War is ugly. When provoked, the fury we, my brothers and sisters, will unleash against our enemies will need justification, judgment and forgiveness. To quote Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, “Hate war, love the warrior.”)
I serve because I choose to serve. I am making a conscious decision. When I recite this oath, I clearly understand the ramifications of my actions.