Reflecting on our oath and the Constitution

  • Published
  • By Maj. Ray Cirasa
  • 71st Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
Last Friday I had the privilege of watching the Air Force's newest 676 Airmen take their oath of enlistment on the parade grounds of Lackland AFB, Texas. They were crisp and loud, standing tall with right hands raised -- and gave me a great case of the chills. 

Every one of us in a U.S. military uniform took the same or similar oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Many civilians and contractors on base took the same oath during their military service. I venture to say the rest would step right up and take it with us if asked. 

So what is this document we're all so proud to swear or affirm our allegiance to? Our first commander in chief, President George Washington, called it "The guide which I never will abandon." 

The Constitution's purpose is found right up front in the preamble -- "... to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." 

As we learned in school, the Constitution meets its intent by separating powers between three branches of government, with checks and balances to keep one branch from dominating the others. 

This alone was a bold departure from a heritage of all-powerful rulers. But even more importantly, the U.S. Constitution, through the Bill of Rights and later amendments, guarantees personal liberties for every individual. 

Oklahoma legend Will Rogers put our thirst for liberty in layman's terms. "I have always claimed Americans didn't want a drink as bad as they wanted the right to take a drink if they did happen to want one." 

We may at times take our good fortune for granted in 21st century America, but our travels around the globe remind us that our country is indeed special. And it's the individual liberties and civil rights secured by the courage of our founders and documented in our Constitution that make us special. 

Daniel Webster eloquently observed this unique document's significance in the story of mankind when he said, "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world." 

Holding on to the Constitution, in Webster's words, is what we do for a living.
As military members on duty, it can seem easy to follow the orders of the officers appointed over us and leave the political discussions to others -- but we're still citizens. 

In town and at home, our opinions are often sought after and respected. In that capacity, I'm sometimes concerned by political discussions that don't seem to take our Constitution into consideration first. I personally choose not to take sides with a political party, and as a military member, I remain respectful and loyal to each commander in chief.

But when discussing the issues of the day, I feel obligated to side with the Constitution. And to defend the Constitution, I've got to know it. So as Thomas Jefferson advised us, "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." 

More than a piece of parchment to be revered, our Constitution lays out the fundamental principles we must pass on to successive generations if our nation is to stand the tests of time and inevitable crisis. Know it, live it, and continue to defend it, not only against enemies, but also in constructive debate with fellow citizens. And toast it with a drink if you like. 

(Editor's note: A copy of the Constitution is available at any library, most book stores and on-line.)