What exactly do military people sign up to do?

You see a lot of “thanks for your service” and “we should be thankful all the time” this time of year. They died so “we could be free” also comes up a lot. That’s admirable and worthy sentiment.

But what actually do soldiers sign up to do? An oath defines this.  I can tell you it doesn’t always explicitly have  to do with freedom, or oil, or “American interests abroad”, or anything else commonly tossed about as rationale for sending future vets abroad.  The broad outline of what soldiers do is covered by the oath taken when enlisting or when appointed a commission.  I happen to have sworn both the enlisted oath:

 

“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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me….

and later, the one used for Officers:

“I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,…

Read it. Now read it again slower.  First and foremost is the Constitution. Second is not to distinguish between enemies foreign and domestic. Note also that the Officer oath does not mention the President.

Every word used in the oath is there on purpose. The oath is also very similar to that used for Congress members, judiciary, and government executives.  All are charged, first and foremost, with defending the Constitution.  You can decide for yourself how that’s going.