17 April 2015

National Volunteer Appreciation Week: Are You a Volunteer?

Yes, we all serve(d) in an all-volunteer military and, for that, your service is very much appreciated (by most of the country, at least)!  However, you are compensated for your time in uniform, so it’s more like a quasi-volunteer.  You “volunteered” to protect and defend the Constitution, you “volunteered” to be deployed to remote locations, you “volunteered” to give your life - and some of you did just that.  Thank you to all of our past and current military “volunteers!”

For brevity, we won’t get into “volun-told.”  Someone else can handle that Command Post article!

The volunteering I want to talk about is the description most of us think of when considering that word - freely offering to do something.  Guess what?  Volunteering is very abundant in the United States! One in four Americans volunteer in some capacity through organizations.  Whether it’s serving meals at a mobile kitchen for the homeless, helping at a local animal shelter, or judging the local spelling bee, there are a variety of ways for people to serve our communities.

In case you weren’t aware (and I’m guessing that most of you weren’t aware!), April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month.  As a leader in a national nonprofit organization, I fully recognize that volunteers are essential to the work of my organization and hundreds of thousands of other organizations that seek to serve our communities.

Just in the military and veteran space, there are over 40,000 nonprofits with the term “military” or “veteran” somewhere in their mission or vision statement.  That’s a lot of organizations that need volunteers!  You can look at the picture on this post from volunteeringamerica.gov to see the different types of organizations that our volunteers serve at.

So how actively does our military/veteran population serve as volunteers?  Veterans serve at about a 1% higher rate than the rest of the population.  More veterans serve in Utah than any state in the Union.  Conversely, fewer veterans serve in Louisiana, but that’s consistent with Louisiana’s overall volunteer rate.

All of this leads to a question for our RallyPoint community: where do you volunteer?  More importantly, why do you volunteer there?  More often than not, we serve for an organization that has impacted us in some capacity.  Some of you serve at your nearby Fisher House Foundation because they were there for you when you - or a family member - were injured.  Some of you volunteer at veteran hiring fairs to help your comrades get the jobs they need and translate their résumés into civilian language.  Some of you feel like you’ve given enough to the military and shy away from any volunteer activities associated with those in uniform, and choose other paths instead.

Regardless of where you serve - thank you for serving!  Selfless service is not only an admirable trait while in uniform; it’s appreciated when you take off your uniform as well.

Post your comments below…it would be great to hear how our military population serves their country AND their community!

Finally, if you want an excellent resource, check out Volunteering and Civic Life in America: http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

16 April 2015

Tactical and Strategic Investing: Part III of IV

In Part I, I explained how to think about “Strategic Investing” – specifically, where you want to be financially in the next 10-40 years and in Part II, I explained how you should think tactically to invest strategically.  Now in Part III, I’m going to explain how to diversify your investments!

I want you to keep in mind: I’m NOT a stockbroker or investment account manager of any sort.  The advice I’m giving here is based on well-known principles of investing, but in my opinion, any investment manager is going to tell you the same thing: diversify.

One of the key concepts in investing, especially for the long term, is “diversification”.  This is a big word that we think we understand, but often don’t.  

In a military battle, you want to spread your forces out far enough to protect an area, but not so much that the enemy can just get inside by finding the gaps.

With investing, you want to do the same thing - spread your money out, or diversify, but not so much that it becomes problematic to retrieve it when you need it.  There are a two of reasons for this:

- First, by spreading your money out, you are ensuring that even if one investment fails, you have others that are succeeding and generating money (and when you retire for good, providing income).

- Second, by spreading your money out into a retirement account, some mutual funds, some precious metals, and maybe some stocks and bonds, you are creating multiple sources of cash later on.

This leads to the next question:  what should you diversify in?  I can’t give you specific guidance because everyone has their own ideas, but in general, you should invest in your IRA/401K retirement accounts first (preferably some sort of mutual funds), next into regular mutual funds, then into some sort of precious metals, and finally maybe some stocks and bonds.  Again, note that this is how I believe investments should be managed but your situation and beliefs may be different.  The key though, no matter what strategy you adopt, is to diversify and spread your investments out across several investment sources.

Keep in mind that when you’re investing into an IRA, you probably want to put as much of your investment money as possible into a “Roth-IRA” because when you do, you pay your taxes at the front as you invest your money. This means that no matter how much money your Roth-IRA generates, you don’t have to pay taxes on it when you withdraw it.  There are limits to how much you can contribute to a Roth-IRA, and there are income-based restrictions as well, so make sure you do a little research before you invest in one.  In fact, you should do research anyway!

The last question is how much should I invest?  Well, most advisors recommend about 15% of your income, however, it really depends on how much you can afford.  If you’re able to put more in then do so, but if you can only put 5% right now, then put 5%.  At a minimum, I would put at least $50-$100 per pay check if at all possible and then, when you have extra cash that you don’t need at the end of a pay period, put that in as well.  This is probably the most important thing you need to do: no matter what, you need to invest something – even if it’s only $20 a week, put it into an investment.  If you can’t do even that, chances are you will never get to a point where you can retire with a couple of million in the bank!

In Part IV, I’ll cover some specific situations to consider when it comes to investing.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

15 April 2015

Do you know how to FAIL?

How does one succeed? Success is a very personal term; only the individual can determine success or failure as only he/she knows what the goals are. This article, however, is not about defining what success is, but rather how to attain it regardless of your definition. 

I will start with a liability statement that this article and the opinions within it will not guarantee any form of success, ever. This is solely based on my opinions & experience and how I have been able to stumble through life, coming out in a reasonably good spot in the end.

Do you know how to FAIL? What is FAIL-ing you may ask? Well this is an acronym – yes, in true military fashion I came up with my own acronym that I am now pitching when I speak publicly and to anyone that will listen long enough. 

FAIL-ing is simple. 

F=friends & family. Reach out to friends and family for help. Use your network, and if you don’t have one build one, fast! Ask them how they got to where they are, what it took, what it cost, how you can do it, is there a certification or additional education needed, and then decide if it’s something that interests you. If not, keep the info in your toolbox as it may be useful later when you are helping someone FAIL.

A=ask. Ask them (friends/family/network) for help, especially if they are successful. We can’t do it alone, everyone needs help with something. The larger your network, the more likely you will find your niche in life and be happy and successful. I’ve learned during my transition from the military that people like to help people - some folks especially like helping vets fresh out of the service. Talk to everyone you can, always get their contact info before you leave and make sure you give them yours. Additionally always, always, ALWAYS tell them (if they offer to help) that you will call or reach out to them at some point for more info. And then follow through with it. Remember to listen to them, you are not there to talk, you are absorbing information and finding ways to find your success.

I=innovate. Be an innovator. Think of new, improved methods to tackle the same old problems. Don’t be afraid to take risks. The military has taught you to adapt - this is an indispensable skill, not everyone has it and many fear it. Your service has trained you to be adaptable to almost anything at a moment’s notice. Use this skill to your advantage, find new efficient, money & time saving ways to achieve the same or better results. You will be the office hero when you do. 

L=learn. Never, ever stop learning. Life is a highway moving at warp speed. Everyone is racing along trying to get to the next mile marker. If you are not continually learning new methods, techniques, or working on the next degree, you are in the break down lane getting passed because everyone else is on the move, especially the younger generations. Talk to people who are successful; ask them what certificate or degree you need. Ask them where to start. Ask them about the mistakes they made and how they would do it differently. Ask if there is a certificate, certification, or training course that would help you get a leg up on the competition (almost every career you are interested in has something these days).

So, you as an active or former service member know how to do this. None of this is new information. You have been well trained and have skills that most of your civilian competition doesn’t have. Use these skills to your advantage. When people ask me what I did to get to where I am, I tell them nothing more than what you are capable of. I listened to my mentors (more as I got older since I knew everything at 18!), got an education, gave a shit about my job and my people. The one thing that I take pride in that was solely on me is that I was smart enough to recognize an opportunity when it presented itself and I acted on it. I’ve let my fair share of good opportunities pass me by but I can rest my head at night knowing that I didn’t let the great ones get away. This is because I wasn’t afraid to fail and I had learned how to FAIL!

So get up off your ass, get out there, and FAIL. One last bit of advice is when you do stumble and fail (not FAIL), make sure you fail fast, dust yourself off and get back in the game to take another swing. Use it as a learning moment, remember what you did right, what you did wrong and use it to your advantage. Nothing in life is a failure if you learn from it.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

13 April 2015

Networking for Transitioning Veterans

Twice a month, I have the distinct pleasure of addressing members of the military as they begin their transition into the civilian sector. Networking is one of the main topics I constantly bring up in conversations with these veterans.

Networking, networking, networking. There is no better way to successfully search for employment than using one’s network. The problem is, most military personnel don’t start the networking process until it is too late. Those who are retiring normally are better off than those who are ETSing, simply because they have been in longer and have, albeit loosely constructed, an established network. Bottom line up front: it is never too late to start networking and, in most cases, you can work backwards! In today’s employment market, more individuals secure gainful employment through networking than any other means of a job search. 

Here is how it works: At company XYZ there is a staff meeting and at this staff meeting, a hiring manager from one of the sections discloses he has a position, what the skill sets are, and asks if anyone has someone who fits the need. Another staff member forwards a resume to the hiring manager. Two things are accomplished - the hiring manager has a candidate who has the skill sets and is a cultural fit for the team based on the recommendation of a colleague. Certainly the position is announced publicly, online and in the paper perhaps, but the position is already filled. 

The network you need to build needs to be composed of former supervisors, subordinates, and peers, from every aspect of your career, no matter how long or short. I use my network as an example. I have two former Brigade Commanders in my network, one an MP and another a Armor (CAV) officer. I also have a General Officer in my network. I have an untold number of former peers and subordinates in my network. The reason is because each of those individuals knew me at my best and at my worst. One of the Brigade Commanders saw me analyze, design, and develop a policy for Defense Support to Civil Authorities for three states and incorporate one classified program into the unclass program to prevent spillage. All the while, we were mobilizing the initial response to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle, and eventually, Operation Iraqi Freedom. The other Brigade Commander saw my response to a subordinate who lost accountability of a classified operational plan for a theater of operations, with graphics. Not my best performance when it came to motivating subordinates. My point is, after one leaves military service, he/she reflects back on others in a different light and even the contacts that may have been less than cordial will generally be willing to help another veteran in the job search. The General Officer in my network was a former Battalion Commander who once called me on the carpet regarding how I was addressing other members of the team after what I determined to be a major integrity issue. As he was “dressing me down” I could not help but smile. When asked what was so funny, I told him if he was trying to chew my a$$, I had heard better from 2nd LT’s. That person is now one of my greatest advocates and provides great insights to me on my business development.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

10 April 2015

Tactical and Strategic Investing: Part II of IV

In Part I, I explained how to think about “Strategic Investing” – specifically, where you want to be financially in the next 10-40 years from the back end – backwards planning that is.  If you answered with anything but “rich”, well, you probably need to go see a psychiatrist.

In any case, now that you’ve thought about that, the next question is: “How do you get there?”  The answer is:  from the front end, a little bit at a time!  Investing for the long term means you have to start saving a little at a time in the short term. In other words, in order to successfully invest “strategically”, you need to invest “tactically”.  Let’s think of it like this - strategic investing, or investing for the long term, is actually a whole bunch of smaller tactical investments that achieve your strategic investment over time.  

What many investors, especially new investors, fail to realize is that tactical investing does not always result in a tactical win. It takes continued application of the tactical battles, or tactical investing in this case, to reach the goal of the strategic plan.  Over time, continued tactical investing leads to many smaller wins and a few losses that, when combined, result in an overall strategic win consisting of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars stashed away for retirement.
So, let’s discuss the one thing that discourages most investors: how do you deal with “tactical” losses?

If you think of a tactical investment as a series of battles or engagements, with a series of different tactics all being used both together and separately, you’ll start to understand. One loss in the tactical world is not the end of your strategic war.  It might be a setback or even a loss, but when you look at all the wins, the one or two losses ultimately add up to nothing.

Additionally, a tactical investment loss isn’t always a loss.  Think of an investment as a member of a platoon.  Think of your company as being several platoons, and several companies are part of a battalion, and several battalions are part of a division.  What you wind up with is many platoons, or investments, spread out across a large number of battlefields.  Not every battle is going to be won, but if you keep putting more resources (money) into the division (multiple battalions, companies, and platoons) eventually, the tide will turn and you’ll start having win after win after win, with only the occasional loss.  Over time, your wins will thoroughly overwhelm any losses you may have, and you’ll have a complete and total victory.  

I’m going to cover how to diversify or spread out your investments more in Part III, but the key point to understand is not to let a few losses discourage you.  Instead, redouble your efforts, focus on putting more resources into those tactical investments that you know you are winning or can win.  
If you have an investment that isn’t doing so well, try to figure out if you’re just not giving it enough resources.  

If it’s just a bad investment and no amount of money will make it work, then you have two choices -  either leave what you’ve put into it and don’t add more to it (rather, take that money and put it somewhere else), or declare it a complete loss and pull all your money out of it for use elsewhere.  I’m not a fan of the latter choice because unless the investment goes completely belly up, it will usually start to recover at some point and gain ground.

In Part III, I’ll go over how to spread your investments out, or diversify, for tactical and strategic gains!

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

08 April 2015

Veterans: Have you joined the American Legion or VFW? Why or why not?

As I wrote this, responses to that question were arriving every minute from the "Vietnam Veterans Only" group on Facebook. It seems my question hit a nerve. Take a look at a random sampling of the responses in the image...

Can you imagine my surprise?

I was fortunate that, when I completed my tour of duty in Vietnam, I was assigned to a post in Hawaii where there was little hostility between the military and civilian communities. Thus, I was spared the abuses that many Vietnam Veterans experienced on their return to CONUS (the Continental United States). I am appalled to learn that my comrades could not find sanctuary even among other veterans. It seems “The Greatest Generation” wasn't as great as I once believed.

On Veterans Day and Memorial Day over the years, as we passed Veterans soliciting donations in exchange for a “Buddy Poppy”, my wife would ask me, “Why don't you join?” I merely shrugged and replied, “Those organizations are for 'real' soldiers. They don't want any REMFs hanging around.”

REMFs are Rear Echelon Mother F*****s, the ones who served “in the rear with the gear”. To be more precise, they were the commanders who sent troops in harm’s way, often disastrously, without exposing themselves to danger. So no, I wasn't one of those and, in truth, there weren't many “rear areas” in Vietnam. Base camps, such as the one to which I was assigned, were located all over the countryside and every perimeter was a front line. Also, in addition to administrative duties, I was a platoon leader for the base camp security force inasmuch as I was a trained infantry officer. Thus, my real reason for not joining, I suppose, was that I never felt the need.

Things changed as news broke about the scandals within the Veterans Administration. As we learned of Veterans dying while languishing on secret waiting lists and other systemic failures, I decided that I had to do something. We were taught as Soldiers to take care of one another on the battlefield. How could we do any less in these circumstances?

I joined both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars and attended a couple meetings for both. The VFW post in my community seemed better organized, and I began focusing my attentions there; however, I intend on devoting more time to the American Legion once I'm settled into the VFW.

We visit patients at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach and the Navy Hospital near Camp Pendleton to cater events for them, sponsor student competitions and award prizes for scholarship, sanction Boy Scout units, and provide honor guards for Veterans' burials as well as community events. One of our most valuable services is helping Veterans apply for VA benefits and shepherding them through the red tape jungle. Like all other VFW posts, we contribute to our national organization and the homes they maintain for widows and orphans of Veterans who have fought in foreign wars.

I'm sure the activities vary from one post to another, but there hasn't been any drinking or smoking at mine (yet). 

To be honest, there are a few WWII and Korean Veterans still hanging on, but Vietnam Veterans seem to predominate, at least among those who attend meetings. I'm especially happy to see younger veterans fresh from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq joining. Hopefully, we can help them network for education and job opportunities as they transition to civilian life. I certainly won't be displaying the behavior Vietnam Veterans experienced when they attempted to join, and I won't permit it to go unchallenged if others try.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

06 April 2015

Easing the Transition: Veterans’ service organizations and grants

Like many veterans of the War on Terror I had a difficult time once my enlistment was over and I returned home. I received what I have come to hear is the “usual treatment” for service members that decided not to stay in; my chain of command could not have cared less about me and I was essentially shown the door with little to no idea what waited on the other side. All this despite the fact that I had served 2 tours, discharged honorably, and had never been in trouble. This left me feeling lost as I arrived home hoping to attend college and begin a normal life again. We all know how difficult that can be, but I won’t get into that right now. What I want to discuss and provide information on are the many programs and grants that are available to veterans, but for one reason or another are not advertised effectively to veterans. These programs and grants range from education, to counseling, to housing assistance and most are free to eligible veterans. Let us begin with education.

Education: Every service member in this day and age should be aware of their GI Bill benefits so won’t  talk about that. What I do want to discuss are ways to ensure that a service member gets the most out of his/her benefits. That brings us to our first program - Veterans Upward Bound (VUB). This is a pre-college program serving low-income and/or first generation college-bound veterans (if you just got out and have no job you should be fine qualifying as low-income). Although there are only 51 VUB programs in the country, many have online options to reach a greater number of veterans. Essentially what this program does is reintegrate veterans to the classroom mindset and ensure they are ready to enter college and succeed. In this way, veterans can get the most out of their GI Bill by avoiding remedial classes and hopefully not failing classes that would then require them to take them again. You can find more information on the program and participating locations at: http://www.navub.org/.

Another option should you no longer have GI Bill benefits, or they have run out and you wish to continue your education, is Vocational Rehabilitation. Unfortunately this program is only for veterans with service-connected disabilities but it is an option that many veterans do not realize they have. This program pays for schooling for qualified veterans (usually 30% disability) in order to assist them in their transition.

If you are using your education benefits, you are also eligible to participate in a VA work-study program - check to see if your school or local VA/Veteran Organization has something. This is a great way to make some extra money and gain experience while in school.
Finally, when you get to school, find your school’s veterans’ club. If you don’t have one at your school, start one or improve on the one you have. The best resource for veterans is other veterans. This will provide support and advice as you all go through the college experience together.

Housing: Many veterans today are transitioning from service with families. This can make attaining their education and employment goals all the more difficult. Should you find yourself in need of housing assistance, look for local veteran service organizations with the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) grant. This grant allows the organization to help veterans with their housing needs through rent and utilities assistance. This is to ensure housing is not lost and to help begin a new housing arrangement along with other supportive services to keep a roof over your head. 
There are also many programs to help veterans with buying houses beyond the VA loan. Some states offer breaks to veterans looking to buy a house. Check with your local housing agents to find out more. Also, there are programs to help veterans facing foreclosure. Again, these vary so check for local resources. 

Transition Assistance: I know many of us are leery of the VA, but there is a great resource for veterans who are transitioning from service that the VA offers. These are called Vet Centers; they are usually separate from a VA facility and specifically designed to help veterans with mental health issues. You can search online to find your local Vet Center. These also usually have work-study positions (as I mentioned above) so there is another great reason to find them and get connected. 

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

03 April 2015

An Honor to Say Goodbye

There have been a lot of things that I could write about regarding my deployment.  But this is something I didn’t think I would see, and I wanted to convey it.

A few years ago, you woke up in the morning and read about an incident that happened in Afghanistan, not far from where I lived.  I won’t get into any details on the event,  you likely got them from the news.  Suffice it to say, I heard it.  It shook my front door and it was five miles away.  But that’s not what I wanted to tell you.

Several of the soldiers were wounded.  One of the soldiers lost his fight.

That afternoon, I had the honor of sending him and another soldier home to his family.   It’s called a ramp ceremony.  I lived and worked at Kandahar Air Field.  It was the point at which most Soldiers entered and left the southern district.  When a Soldier paid the ultimate price, we got notified and we all gathered on the ramp to send him or her home.  That day was no exception.

When I arrived at the entrance to the airfield, hundreds of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen gathered to say farewell.  They were not just Americans, but Australians, Canadians, British, Poles, Italians, Slovakians, Romanians, and Dutch.  They were all there to help bring freedom to Afghanistan.  We lived and fought side by side.  It was truly a brotherhood, making the send-off a very solemn event.  They were members of the family and we were all there to honor them.

On the airfield, all the units lined up and marched to the rear of the aircraft -  a C-17.  Picture a plane the size of a 727 whose sole purpose was to carry two souls home.  The formations stretched out facing each other, forming two columns with a corridor in the center.  Some of the fallen Soldiers’ comrades sat in wheelchairs near the airplane to say goodbye.  A few words were spoken by members of the Chaplain Corps.  One of the Soldiers went unnamed. Out of respect, I will not tell you who they were but one left a pregnant wife and two children back home.  I ask that you pray for them still today.

The national colors were brought down the corridor and salutes were rendered. The two honorable men who gave all they could give were carried by US service men in flag draped aluminum caskets.  As they made their way through the formation, Amazing Grace and Taps played, the men dropped their salutes, and the ramp of the plane slowly closed.  The flight crew carefully secured the vessels in the body of the plane.  This entire event is seen as an honor for all of them.  The flight crew never knows when they will be required to do this.  A plane is removed from rotation immediately when someone needs to be carried.  We don’t waste any time sending our brothers and sisters home for the last time.

It is a powerful statement to see hundreds of people who serve their nations standing on the hot sunny tarmac, rendering honor for someone they probably have never met and will never get the chance to meet.  I want to thank these people, and thank the families of the fallen for allowing their loved ones to help in our endeavors overseas.  Your sacrifice for the country will not be forgotten by the many that were there.  We would like you to know that they will have a revered trip home that would be worthy of a President of the United States.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

02 April 2015

Tactical and Strategic Investing: Part I of IV

One of the biggest challenges for any Soldier, especially junior enlisted Soldiers, is thinking strategically.  Junior Soldiers are told what, when, where, and how to do things, but the “why” is almost always left out.  Additionally, the requirements a Soldier has are accomplished for the “now” – not the future… Sure, we know that winning a battle over the long term and with repeated winning battles will usually mean winning the “war”, but we don’t get the longer term – the winning of peace for future generations, economic success, and freedom for others.

This leads to what I believe is a major problem among today’s Soldiers and civilians: the inability to think about “strategic investing”, or saving money for the long term!  Sure, we get training in Basic and AIT that covers investing, saving money, not going into debt, avoiding the credit-drain cycle, but we just don’t get it!

I know this because I went through that same cycle for nearly 16 out of my 26+ years in the military!  I loved that I could get the latest cell phone, the newest TV, a new car, and tons of electronics I almost never used!  I didn’t think about retirement, disability, death, or the other “big-D” word: divorce. I was living “tactically” – for the now, not “strategically” – for the future.  And I wasn’t investing at ALL – not tactically and not strategically.

Let’s start with the end question:  Where do you want to be financially in 10, 20, 30, or 40 years?  Do you want to be broke?  Do you still want to be working that dead-end job as a PFC (Punk Frying Chicken) at KFC?  Do you want to be in a war with your ex-wife over how much of your income she’s going to get?  And what about your eventual death?  Yeah, I said it. You’re going to die; we are all going to die…That’s hard to say and to accept.  It could be today, tomorrow, or 60 years from now but eventually, the Grim Reaper is going to come knocking, and you will answer that door… no matter how hard you try not to!

So, back to my first question:  Where do you want to be financially in 40 years?  If you’re like me, you’d love to be rich with about one to two million in the bank! Guess what? If you’re younger than 40, you can have that much money! Perhaps more!  If you’re older than 40, you might not get to a million, but you can hit $500,000 or so!  At 60?  Well, depending on how long you live past that age, and how much you can invest, you might be able to hit $200,000 – a nice inheritance or donation to your favorite person, charity, or church. It can be done!

In Part II, I’m going to explain how to start thinking about “tactical investing” and how that relates to “strategic investing”.  Once you start thinking along that line, we’ll hit Part III, and cover “tactical investing”.  Finally, in Part IV, I’ll tell you how to invest for specific, and significant events.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

30 March 2015

How do we define an "enemy"?

When considering the enlistment oath all of us took (or something similar) is as follows:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

How does one define the term “enemy?”

Dictionary.com defines this term as such:
  • a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.
  • an armed foe; an opposing military force:
  • a hostile nation or state.
  • a citizen of such a state.
  • enemies, persons, nations, etc., that are hostile to one another:
  • something harmful or prejudicial
When following this basic definition, how do we specifically define the enemies that we have sworn to fight against? This is easily defined in such groups as ISIL and the Nazis, but what about the more subtle enemies? What about the domestic enemies?

Example 1: When police officers perform illegal searches that are against the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution we vowed to protect, are these officers by definition enemies that we must protect the country against?

Example 2: When Congress passes a law that counters the Constitution or that law ultimately means citizens are being harmed or having their rights taken away, are they considered an enemy that we must defend against?

Example 3: When groups such as “Anonymous” hack known hate groups such as the KKK to shut down their websites, are the hacking groups an enemy?

While this line is easy to draw with enemy combatants, where does this extend to non-violent actors that may be operating outside the parameters of the oath we took?


Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.