What does this oath mean to you?

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I clearly recall the day my dad administered the oath of office to me and I entered the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant. It seems almost like yesterday, even though it was more than 20 years ago that my dad raised his right hand and said, "Repeat after me." 

Retired from the U.S. Army, he had administered the oath many times, but it was obvious to me he was doing everything possible not to pass out! My reaction was quite different, certainly proud, but I was just glad to be graduating from college and starting a new adventure. But much like I have today, I think my dad had much stronger appreciation for what he was administering and how significant our oath of office really is. 

Did you know the very first law enacted in the very first session of the very first Congress established the oath U.S. military members still take today? Enacted June 1, 1789, the oath simply read: "I ____ do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support the constitution of the United States." A separate oath for enlisted members followed shortly thereafter Sept. 29, 1789. It's almost identical to today's. I know these words have been read thousands of times over the last 218 years, and you have probably observed many ceremonies where the oath was read, but it's so much more than mere words. 

You're not just raising your hand, you are affirming that you'll protect and defend this country. With that oath comes a very special bond for us who serve. It provides a foundation for our values and our chain of command - and at the same time can be a very personal conviction with those final four words "...so help me God." 

As a commander, I know when I have the opportunity to administer the oath to one of the world's greatest Airmen, my hand shakes a little bit too, because I now understand the significance it carries. This first act of the first Congress has a very special meaning - a chance to give back a little of what this great county of ours gives to us: freedom. So read it over ... what does it mean to you? The Enlisted Oath I, (your name), do solemnly swear or affirm to bear true faith and 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 officers appointed over me.