Limestone County, like other counties across the nation, celebrated Constitution Day in Athens Wednesday marking the 227th birthday of a landmark document that serves as supreme law of the United States. Constitution Day, which is celebrated on the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, became a sanctioned federal holiday 10 years ago.
Citizens from all walks of life gathered in McCandless Hall on the campus of Athens State University for a joint celebration hosted by Athens State and the John Wades Keyes chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Children of the American Revolution rang bells, Boy Scout Troop 240 presented the flag ceremony and Sons of the American Revolution served as voices of the founding fathers.
A patriotic poem was read by Melissa Thompson and patriotic songs were sung by those in attendance led by Jim Thompson and accompanied on the 1892 George Kilgen and Son tracker-action organ by Dr. Ronnie Merritt. Dan Havely played taps on the trumpet.
Retired Navy Capt. Alan Maiorano served as speaker reminding listeners of the importance of the Constitution when it comes to the freedoms of all Americans.
Maiorano focused his speech on service men and women and their motives to serve.
“Given everything that is going on in the world today … it is a very appropriate time to step back and thank God for America, thank God for being here and thank God for our Constitution,” Maiorano said.
Maiorano believes that since its inception, the Constitution has been the central element that underpins the actions of all service men and women.
“It begins with day one of their enlistment,” he said. “Today we often thank our service men and women … for their dedication, their sacrifice, but we rarely say, ‘Thank you for defending our Constitution.’”
Maiorano said, that in reality, behind the pride we have in our service members is the Constitution. He explained it all begins with the first day they begin service with the oath of enlistment — armed forces started the enlistment oath in 1789.
“Our founding fathers clearly understood the ties between our people, our government and our armed forces and they understood the importance of quickly putting in place a clear vision of the purpose of all armed forces and their role in our country,” he said. “For over 200 years … their vision has withstood the test of time.”
Maiorano read the enlistment oath, which he added was simple, concise and clear.
The first lines reads “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”
Maiorano said there are several critical take-aways from the oath of enlistment. First, he said it contains simple guidelines that are easy to understand. Second, he pointed out the oath does not say “support and defend the president of the United States or support and defend Congress or Democrats or Republicans or Independents or the people or Catholics or Jews or Muslims or short people or men and women.”
“It says support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” Maiorano said. “It calls on the service member to support and defend the Constitution … to defend Americans’ rights for those freedoms outlined in the Constitution and embedded in that short document.”
He added that while they are clearly ordered to obey the president and appointed officers, a service member’s allegiance is to the Constitution.
“As a result the oath of enlistment has perpetual longevity,” he said. “Like the Constitution it specifically and purposely transcends party, person, race, ethnicity.”