I was raised by two people that survived a depression, a world war, and a conflict called “Korea” to know the value of a dollar, to be resourceful, to be “smarter than the average bear”, and above all, to live with honor and integrity. I am a man that in these “seven years of plenty”, has been storing grain for the years of want that are yet to be. I am exceedingly happy that these seven years have been stretched into several decades in this particular nation, but I see the writing on the wall and know that it cannot sustain itself forever on credit and poorly chosen leadership. Do not be afraid though, for I have read the Book all the way to the end. Mine will be a missive not of despair, regret, and unmet longing but one of hope, joy, and excitement of the proud days yet to be.
As for my particular credentials, I have never viewed “prepping” (as it is now called) as anything other than the way life should be lived. It rarely crosses my mind to prepare the car for a trip across the state or to keep it full of gas and well maintained. These are things that are merely my way of life. My grandparents instilled in me a great habit of preparing for things, and they balanced that with the importance of being thankful and joyful for today. While my own granaries are not as full as I would like, due mostly to my human desire for the amorphous “more” that we all strive to attain, I am content this day that my bread is provided. An equally important lesson my grandparents sought to teach– the one that was initially lost on me in my youth– was that a man’s word was his bond. This is to be the topic of my contribution here.
Witnessing my grandparents practical lessons of preparing for tomorrow’s uncertainties was easy, even for a man-cub. Tornadoes and winter storms served as gigantic billboards to display the “why we do things this way” message. Another, much more important life skill, was more abstract and harder for my ancestors to teach to my younger self.
Pa, I understand it now. Fully and completely has the message been learned. You may rest easy.
The lessons that my grandfather attempted to teach me, and the lessons that I did not fully understand at the time, have come full circle. I have begun to feel more prepared for an uncertain future than I ever have before. Questions from those soggy fields took nearly two decades for me to understand their answers. Why would a man work for half a day, covered in mud and grease and grit, to help a neighbor out, and then refuse any and all payment? Why would he fight back winter storms, ice, and snow to clear a driveway for someone who lived across the road, while not even stopping to tell them about the job he did? Why would a man weld and repair machinery without fail and also without compensation?
It was because that man knew the value of integrity and of keeping your word to those in your community. He had, without speaking it aloud or broadcasting it wider than his own thoughts, made a promise to do unto others as they would do unto him, without expecting anything in return. Doing a thing because it is the “right thing” to do is something that is getting to be an uncommon occurrence these days, but it was the way life was lived in my grandparent’s generation. It was a common commitment to one another to strive together, to work together to get the job done, whatever the job at hand was. We have forgotten the power of our word, the power of our promises, and the power of our oaths.
However, you and I both know that some among us still know full well the power of an oath, and you will discover one shining example, which will be discussed here in due time.
A promise– an oath– was a very serious matter to my grandfather, and it was not until I had taken several oaths and matured quite a bit myself that I fully understood why it was so important to him.
Since I have no serious medical training nor survival knowledge, other than what you learn as a boy scout, I will attempt to entertain your mind and touch your soul this day with this thing that I do know a little about. Having seen many oaths taken by men and women that I admire, it is easy for me to see the utility and the value of a human promise.
I have no great knowledge of food preparation, nor water treatment, though I can witch a well like nobody’s business. Instead, I will let you in on the secret of society, safety, and happiness as I have found it. My examples will be simple, and have been poured forth from my electric pen as I recall events that happened more than a decade ago, to the best of my ability. I hope that my meager credentials have provided me standing to allow me to deliver these words. I hope that I can illustrate to you how an Oath is a serious and powerful force.
It is my hope that you will be entertained enough to read on, and enlightened and uplifted enough to be encouraged thoroughly. I will set the scene three times, and, unlike Charles Dickens, I will offer encouragement in all three specters from the past.
In the first scene, a group of young men stand in a school gymnasium clothed in tan polyester. They are gathered to convey upon one of their own a high honor. We gathered that night to bestow upon Chad Brokaw the award of Eagle Scout.
(If you have ever seen the Sprint Cellular ads where there is a group of young men from all different cellular phone companies in various humorous situations, then you have seen Chad Brokaw and know a little of him. His character is called, of all things, “Chad”. I was surprised to see him on the screen, several years ago, but not because I didn’t think his acting was first rate, only because I had lost contact with him many years ago.)
On the night we all gathered in the gym, Chad was not acting. He was himself humble, kind, and soft spoken. He led the Scout Oath that night, which brings us back to the purpose of this piece. Oaths, and those that take them, form the basic building blocks of honor, integrity, and service that are required for our society. These promises are the foundations upon which society will stand when the end of things as we know them occurs.
That night, in that gym, surrounded by a group of young men that I was very privileged to be a part of, I swore an oath, and, for the first time, took the words deeply to heart and fully comprehended the meaning of every single word.
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
I did not know it at the time, but there were Marines, Airborne soldiers, airmen, city planners, teachers, and other civil servants in our midst that night. Yes, these young men came to know the depth of that oath as well as I did. This promise was the basis for my developing morality. To serve others, to keep myself physically and mentally ready for whatever troubles might arise, be it helping someone with their groceries or helping disaster victims, who are not as prepared or trained as myself.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. That night was the beginning of something that has happened to all of those who call themselves by the moniker of “prepper”. “Be Prepared”, as the dear reader knows, is an order handed down from the highest of places to us, the mere servants of a Great Master.
That was my first oath– to take care of my body, mind, and soul, so that I could take care of others. Surely you can see the applicability of that to a survival situation! It was the beginning of wisdom for me because I was starting to see what really mattered, what was the very marrow of life. That has made all the difference and has driven many decisions and choices in my life.
Even in their youth, a young man in a khaki shirt can understand that oaths are a serious matter. They are the very cement that holds the fragile foundation of society together. Without our promises to each other, society will crumble even though tens of thousands of laws may be written in faraway books. It is those that have taken an oath to stand together who will prevail at the end of the world as we know it. I cannot think of anything that would help me more than a few like-minded patriots struggling against the forces of evil. History has shown this to be the case, and all the bullets and beans in the world will come to nothing if I cannot be a man of my word among other men of their word.
Having grown up and chosen a path that took me far from that gymnasium but never far from the foundations of integrity that were laid there, the story progresses a few years into the future. So I will set the scene, once again, that you might enjoy, as I did, the power of the moment.
It is now a summer day, at the foot of the mountains. From the twenty thousand that applied, roughly only fourteen hundred young men and women stand on this hallowed parade ground in Colorado. We are here because we have proven ourselves worthy to be here, on paper at least. We are physically strong, exceptionally bright, and highly motivated to perform our duty for this great nation. We have proven ourselves to the admissions boards and congressional representatives, but we still have everything to prove to ourselves.
I remember this oath very well, but I will record it here. Many have taken it and will recall the words. Many have not taken it, or took it very long ago, so the words are recorded here.
“I, (NAME), 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, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
The power and weight of these words is something that I have thought about deeply in the years that have passed since I first spoke them. Standing near me that day was a young man. He was similar to us in many ways but also very different; he was exceptional really. He was always willing to go the extra mile in classes and during physical training. He was driven by a sense of honor and purpose unlike any that I met while I was there, in Colorado, at the university. Derek Argel was as good a man as I have ever known.
I still intend to fulfill this oath, as do many others who have sworn it, but I have never been fully tested. Derek Argel believed in his oath. He believed that the Constitution, the United States, his wife, his young son, and freedom were worth everything that he could give. He was tested to the fullest. On the 30th of May 2005, my friend gave everything that he had. He left everything behind to fulfill his oath to defend the Constitution. He was a man of his word and had sworn an oath to defend without regard for the cost. On that dusty ground, in a land many can’t even identify on a map, all of Eternity learned how much Derek Argel believed in his oath.
It is fully my intention to live life so that when I see him again, I can look him in the eye. It would do no good to store up years worth of food if we all cannot look our friends in the eye when we see them again. Our assured survival is based not just on the things that are hidden away for us to eat but also on our ability to be there for one another to defend and protect the things that we value most highly. That which is worth defending needs those that are willing to defend it, those that are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder and say “No!” and spit defiantly in the very face of evil, whatever it looks like. It is not a difficult thing to say, but it is a very difficult thing to do.
Our next scene is a much more cheerful and happy one. This time, I stood alone, in front of a few family and friends. I stood waiting for a beautiful woman in white to come forward and join me in my crazy life. I had grown so used to standing alone that many wondered what I was doing up there. Many questioned my thinking. In the end, I decided that it was right to stand there and to wait for this girl to join me, and so I did.
It was a good day. No, it was a very good day.
It had been a long time coming, for both of us, to get to that place. While we were chronologically younger than most that get married, we had seen far more than most, far more than was our due at that tender age. We’d seen too much death, too much suffering, too much loneliness, and too much being alone. We each had a vision of the future– bright and full of life, and we wanted to get started as soon as possible.
So, we did.
Against the wishes of most who knew us, we stood there. We did not care. She had just graduated university, and I would be starting a civilian flight school in two weeks. (The school in Colorado decided my knees were too awful and sent me home.)
So there we were.
Both of us.
Together, standing beside one another– as it should be, as it will always be.
I took that oath with full mind of the ramifications and of what I was saying. I pledged to remain by her for the rest of the days of my life, to honor and defend, and to care for her until I no longer had breath in my lungs. In my own separate vow, I pledged to be mindful of “matters of consequence” and to always seek peace in an argument. I swore to stay and to fight for our marriage in the face of everything else, anything else, that would happen. I took an oath to remain with her, even when we stood alone against all others.
While the exact wording of my vow has been lost, the meaning, however, is faithfully recorded here. (My advice to others is that if you let someone borrow a Bible, make sure they don’t use the original copy of your wedding vows as a bookmark and lose it.) So I have recreated the main points of what I said to that beautiful young woman.
She pledged the same things that I did, and we both said “I do”. Simple? Not at all. It has been a fight. We have spent more than a decade struggling against a society that does not value oaths, especially the oath between a husband and wife. Fighting the selfishness within ourselves has been a struggle at times. We have argued over trivialities that are not “matters of consequence” but merely times that I want to be right because I am right! While we tend to not fight each other overly aggressively, keeping that simple oath to one another is difficult. You see, we are beset by a society that marginalizes and devalues family. Our culture values the opposite of what we do, in most cases. We are attacked daily by images of younger or better or more luxurious or finer or thinner or bigger or stronger or…well, you get the idea.
The practical application here is that remaining together and honoring our oaths is ideally suited to survival in any situation. A man, generally speaking, was not meant to be alone, nor is a woman. Long-term survival depends on our ability to reform society in a workable and maintainable structure. Society is built on the family, and a family is built on two people holding onto one another and to the oath that they made to each other.
If we cannot keep an oath to someone we once found the center of the universe, how can we be expected to keep our oaths to our neighbors, our nation, or God? It seems to be a simple question, but it is not. It seems to be rhetorical, but it is deeply philosophical. If we cannot keep our word, what good will be all of the beans, bullets, and band aids that we have stored up for the coming hard times? If our souls have rotted, what good will feeding our bellies and taking care of our scratches be? If we are not men who can be relied upon and women who can be trusted, what will it matter that we can set a bone, stitch a deep cut, or procure clean water?
In the words of General Patton, in 1943:
“It is absurd to believe that soldiers who cannot be made to wear the proper uniform can be induced to move forward in battle. Officers who fail to perform their duty by correcting small violations and in enforcing proper conduct are incapable of leading.”
This is wholly applicable and makes my point perfectly. If we can’t be trusted with one simple talent, how then are we to be trusted with anything at all?
When my friend, Derek Argel, died, I openly wept. I am not ashamed of that fact, not in the least. He was a good man and had been a good friend to me and many others in the short time that I spent there in the mountains. He was a man you could rely on. He knew the weight an oath carried.
When my grandfather died, I was but a boy. Our time together was too short as well. My grandfather was a man you could trust to do what he said he would do. My only hope and desire is that I live honorably and can die in peace, knowing that I have honored my commitments and upheld the oaths which I have sworn.
The truly hard part of this message is the “How To” portion. The problem is that it looks so different from person to person that it is difficult to precisely offer a step-by-step model to be carried out by the reader. How can I describe the proper motivation to become one who honors their oaths? There are many reasons. Perhaps you are driven to not make the mistakes of your parents, or perhaps you are driven to be like your parents. If the latter is the case, consider yourself very, very lucky. Hopefully, you have found a Power that you rely on for your decision-making. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and David is a powerful force and the strongest Ally you could ask for. Still, I know that many are not drawn in that direction.
The only advice that I can offer follows, and since it is free advice, you can rest assured that it is worth every penny that you pay for it! All attempts at wit aside, the only way to be one who is known to honor your oaths is to honor them, day in and day out, through excitement and newness, and also through boredom and pain. The daily slog through life and the highest joys of the universe both require our utmost attention.
- Be the kind of neighbor that you would like to have.
- Be the partner to your spouse you have sworn to be.
- Be the parent to your children; no one else will.
- Be a defender of the Constitution, even if that simply means making sure the flag at church is displayed correctly and with the honor it deserves.
- Be the friend to others that you would like to be.
- Be the hope to those that are in darkness. There is plenty of darkness to go around and too little light these days. Remember, in a deep cave, even the flicker of the smallest candle is blinding.
These are just a few simple ideas. Having read this far, I hope that these simple suggestions are a launching point and a great encouragement to you.
With that, I conclude our time together, dear reader. I hope that I have clearly made my point. I hope that I have been able to stir something deep inside of you or encouraged feelings already present. Really, that is the desire of anyone who writes for others to read. Thank you, again, for taking time to spend with me. I bid you go, now.
Go and be the kind of man or woman who will be deeply mourned at their passing.
Stand and fight for that which you have sworn to stand and fight for.
Do not merely survive, but thrive!