The group stood assembled in a small room, strangers all.Their most notable feature was the dissimilarity between them. A rainbow of ethnicites, accents, genders, builds, and clothing; a mixing pot of young people that could have been attending their freshman initiation at college.
Indeed, this was an initiation. Even the boldest among them were anxious for this was new ground. None had passed this way before. For the first time in most of their lives, tomorrow would be uncertain; futures in the hands of strangers who spoke a different language than heard back home. Their speech sounded a lot like English, but many of their words were foreign, a collision of cultures – a fusion of verbiage.
What brought them together was as varied as their appearances. Some needed an education but couldn’t pay for it. Others needed a steady income to support a young family. Some had to get away from home. There were adventurers, patriots, and misfits.
In the coming weeks their futures will be forged in the furnace of shared training, testing, and hardship. Their appearance will become uniform; speech and bearing will transform making king them almost unrecognizable to parents and spouses. Confidence and strength will rise, recognized by the level gaze when they look you directly in the eyes.
Today their job is simply to step over that threshold into their uncertain future. To stand up and do what they said they would. To raise their right hand with others who will become brothers in arms…and they will repeat:
I, do solemnly swear 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.
And so it began for me on 31 July 1980 – an oath I have never regretted, questioned, or shirked.
I am proud to have worn the uniform of my country.