Constitution reigns overseas, in garrison

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Eleven years after our nation claimed its independence from Britain with signing of one of the greatest documents in the history of the United States, yet another significant document was forged - the Constitution of the United States. Whereas the Declaration of Independence established our nation, the Constitution laid its foundation.

The magnitude of either document weighs no less for Americans serving overseas, as each carries enormous significance. Though, how many Americans, at home or abroad, really know what is written on this parchment?

In middle school, I learned the Preamble to the Constitution; yet I was too naïve to realize the importance of what was being taught.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Approximately five years ago, I solemnly swore in the oath of enlistment to "... support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic ..." Yet I have still never read it.

I intend to settle that shortcoming this week, just as many other Americans will educate themselves through various events held across the U.S. during Constitution Week Sept. 17-23.

The Constitution, signed Sept. 17, 1787, consists of seven articles. The first three lay out the principles behind the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The remaining four explain tenets of relationships among states, determine the process for creating amendments to the constitution, designate the Constitution as "the supreme Law of the Land," and ratify the Constitution.

Twenty-seven amendments follow the articles that prescribe notions such as the abolition of slavery; prohibition and its repeal; suffrage for African-Americans, women and youth; and presidential term limits. The amendment often deemed the most significant to every American, though, is the First Amendment, which forges the path for basic freedoms - religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

In August 1956, Congress requested President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaim Sept. 17 - 23 each year as Constitution Week; though, George W. Bush officially declared Constitution Week in September 2002.

Constitution Week, as well as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day held Sept. 17, celebrates "the legacy passed down to us from our Nation's Founders. Our Constitution, with the Bill of Rights and amendments, has stood the test of time, steering our country through times of prosperity and peace, and guiding us through the depths of internal conflict and war," states President Barack Obama's 2010 proclamation for the observance. "Because of the wisdom of those who have shaped our Nation's founding documents, and the sacrifices of those who have defended America for over two centuries, we enjoy unprecedented freedoms and opportunities."

Constitution Week affords a grand excuse to get educated on the foundation of and the principles that govern our nation. Many resources are available online and in libraries about the formation of the U.S. and the history behind the foundations of our country and government.

"We the People."

(Information from the National Constitution Center website and whitehouse.gov were used in this article.)