On a cool, spring morning in Annapolis, Md., Capt. Darren Long, U.S. Air Force, leads a small detail of Airmen in the rotunda of the historic Maryland State Capitol. Captain Long gathered the detail in order to conduct the time-honored tradition of renewing enlistments for members of his squadron. For many Airmen, it is an important decision point in their military career ... and for Tech. Sgt. Shatara Woodard and Staff Sgt. Rosemarie Ching, members of the Maryland's 317th Recruiting Squadron, it was an easy one. Today they are "re-upping" for yet another tour of duty in the Air Force, an affirmation of profound significance. So profound they chose to take their oath of re-enlistment on the hallowed ground of the Maryland State Capitol.
Hallowed ground indeed; for in the very same room in the Maryland State Capitol, in 1783, General George Washington stood in silence, bearing the weight of a 'decision point' in his own career. At the end of the Revolutionary War, many citizens of the newly formed colonies thought that Washington, having defeated the British Empire, would naturally become King. As commanding general of a victorious Continental Army, he certainly had the power to do so. Yet Washington chose to do something that would be considered unprecedented in Western History. On December 23, 1783, George Washington resigned his commission as General of the Continental Army, and shaped the future of our nation by officially handing over his powers to the Continental Congress. This was a truly a remarkable moment in American history ... because it solidified our nation as a republic, governed by the principles put forth by the people, and a shining example of what would be a new American ethos -- allegiance to a representative Democracy, rather than a single person.
After taking time to soak in the moment, Sergeants Woodard and Ching prepared for their re-enlistment. Members of the public, observing a tour of the Capitol quietly, curiously gathered around to witness the spectacle. Captain Long then walked into the room and stepped forward. "Are you ready?" he said. Both Airmen delivered a firm nod.
Captain Long proceeded to administer the oath, "Sergeant Woodard, Sergeant Ching ... please raise your right hand and repeat after me. 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."
The importance of the words cannot be overstated, because they connect every military member to General Washington's selfless act in 1783. Sergeants Woodard and Ching did not swear allegiance to a king or emperor. They did not take an oath to a single person or monarch. Like Washington, these two Airmen put aside their personal desires in order to become part of something bigger. They took an oath to support and defend their Constitution, and ensure the great American experiment continues. A reminder that the ideals put forth by our forefathers, fought and paid for in blood, are never lost on our men and women in uniform.
As the detail departed the Capitol Building, Maryland State Delegates stopped to thank the Airmen for their service, the ultimate tribute in a civil-military relationship spanning over 220 years, and signifying the birth of a free nation.
Well done Airmen.