A Better Way to Thank a Veteran

Written by: John Kenyon

Today, on 11 November our nation will observe Veterans Day to honor those who served this nation. As a veteran, who served over 30 years, I am often thanked because of that service. I can say it is appreciated, particularly when we realize this has not always been the case, as even in recent history military service was held in contempt by some. It is my hope that after reading this you might grasp a deeper understanding of that service.

Recently I was standing inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia while listening to the park ranger speak of the work the founders of our nation did in crafting The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. As he concluded his talk he made a startling statement that took me by surprise. He stated that those in the Armed Forces and the President of the United States take oaths to one thing only, the Constitution of the United States. This promoted me to do my research and I found an article by Matthew Spalding, titled Support and Defend: Understanding the Oath of Office. In this article you read the following:

Under current law any individual elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, except the President, shall take the following oath: “I, [name], 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 on which I am about to enter.” (33 U.S.C. § 3331.)

The President has a different one but reflects the same thinking. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The taking of an oath is binding, dare I say a sacred binding, as one appeals to God or affirms “that [he/she] will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which [he/she is] about to enter.”

Yet, we have seen in the past attempts to redefine or diminish our Constitution rights. The use of “freedom of worship” for “freedom of religion” by a previous administration is an example. The best, I believe, is seen in the confirmation hearings for nominees to the US Supreme Court. Walter E. Williams, in his article, It’s Our Constitution—Not Kavanaugh establishes this well.

If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will bring to the Supreme Court a vision closer to that of the Framers than the vision of those who believe that the Constitution is a “living document.” Those Americans rallying against Kavanaugh’s confirmation are really against the Constitution rather than the man—Kavanaugh—whom I believe would take seriously his oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution.

For many the battle is being fought over the idea of whether the Constitution is a “living breathing document” or one that is “etched in stone”. Once again I was given a ‘eureka’ moment by our own Dr. Peter Lillback. In a conversation with him on this issue, he stated the founders answered this question when they established the procedure to amend the Constitution (27 amendments have be added since its inception [the 21st repeals the 18th]). The process by which to change the document has been set and changes need to be done within the framework given by the founders of this nation.    

 In many ways we are at a crossroads concerning this document. A recent ABC Nightline segment highlighted the problem when reporting on a student movement at a university in Utah to keep Ben Shapiro (American conservative political commentator) from speaking at the university. In the interview with the student (leader of the protest to shut down the lecture), the reporter stated the students’ actions was directly prohibiting the First Amendment rights of Mr. Shapiro. The student answered, “I don’t care” and when pressed by the reporter this was a Constitutional right was told, “I don’t think that’s a, like a relevant document right now.”

 This year is the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I. The count of those who died in combat from that war to the present now numbers over 430,000. These individuals took the oath “to uphold and defend the Constitution” and died living out that oath. Yes we need to thank veterans for their service that ensures our freedoms but probably the best way is to once again embody the Constitution we served to defend. To support those in public office who live out their oath and to hold accountable those who do not. To ensure the citizens of this nation can exercise their constitutional right even when we disagree with them. Yes, we served to enable a citizen even to desecrate the symbol (flag) that we fought to defend; the symbol that draped the coffin of those who gave that “last full measure of devotion”.  


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