Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vows That Age

This is a question post. I don't have a solid answer. Maybe you do. I'd be much obliged.

Do vows expire?

Well, of course they do. Marriage vows expire when the spouse dies. I get that, despite our society's tendency to completely ignore "Till death do us part." Certainly death does part married couples and the vow ends then (Rom 7:2). But what about others?

I'm thinking, in particular, a vow that I and every other person who served in the military was required to take.
I 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's it, the standard Oath of Enlistment for joining the military. Everyone that joins takes such an oath (or affirmation). Now, as I look at the text of it, I don't see an end date. I don't see a delineation of the circumstances under which the promise is null and void. I don't see where it is terminated.

Is this an oath that all who joined the military are required to keep even after leaving the military? I mean, obviously they wouldn't defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic in the same way or in the same capacity, but what about in whatever capacity they can? They might not go into battle or bear arms to do it, but they certainly could vote, for instance, in support and defense of the Constitution. They could support and encourage defense of the First Amendment, as an example.

Well, you see what I mean. Is this a vow that dies out with the end of one's service, or is there no end-of-life clause on it? I'm not sure. What do you think?

10 comments:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think context matters. The Oath is taken as part of a group, as proper actions when part of that group.

Stan said...

So you would say that the enlistment oath only lasts as long as the enlistment?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Exactly.

For example, I took an oath not to strike when I signed up for Air Traffic Control. Does that oath now bind me from going on strike while on any other job? No.

David said...

I would imagine that most oaths expire when you are no longer a part of the organization. Not really sure what the confusion is, though. I can't help but correlate this with how long must you honor your parents, but they're not directly linked here.

Stan said...

Well, the confusion is as I said. In marriage vows the termination of the vow is listed. "Till death do us part." The living spouse is no longer under the vows when the other dies. End of vow. In most vows there is a termination clause. "Under these circumstances these end." That kind of thing. There isn't any such thing in the enlistment oath.

David said...

Maybe when it was written there was no end because enlistment was more of a lifelong vocation rather than a four year stint? Soldiers were thought of as soldiers for life, where as now it's something you did for a time?

Stan said...

It could be that Glenn is right and it is assumed that the oath is only as long as the enlistment. It could be that all Americans should defend the Constitution. But the most likely possibility is that I'm overthinking it.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I don't know when that oath was written, but I'm thinking it was probably in the 20th century, and by then no one was considered in the military forever (as I think the militia was viewed as in the early days.)

By the way, the last I knew the required duty time is 6 years. When you were drafted and had 2 yrs, you still had 4 yrs inactive reserve, 3-year enlistment still left you with 3 years of inactive reserve -- always subject to call up. I spent 4 yrs 8 months active duty (with 4 months inactive reserver prior with the 120-day delayed entry program during High School) but didn't get my final discharge until 1 yr later from the inactive reserve. (The odd enlistment period was due to taking a "short" from my original 3 years and starting 3 years over again to guarantee present duty for a year -- I was working on my commercial pilot license at the Flying Club and they were looking to send me to Germany -- I wanted to wait until I had my license.)

Stan said...

I don't know if that 6-year thing is still in effect. It was when I was in, but, then, I was in for 10, so it didn't apply.

David said...

It was 8 when I was in, but in our time, inactive reserve is effectively out, if not technically. And the 4 was a generalization.