Veterans - defenders of our Constitution

Brent Fisher

My father, Col. James B. Fisher, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars and a career U.S. Army soldier, passed away in August 2008.

I have been reflecting on his service and the oath that all soldiers take upon themselves: "... I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic...I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...."

On occasion, my father and I talked about Korea and Vietnam. He was more willing than some soldiers to talk about his wartime experience.

His service included many harrowing acts of heroism for which he was decorated six times. He didn't make a big deal about them because it was his job.

In Vietnam, he served as the Commander of a medical evacuation helicopter detachment. The radio call sign for this type of unit was the word "Dustoff."

Dustoff units became legendary for their saving service, even flying into hostile territory in the midst of battle to save soldiers sometimes without helicopter gunships to protect them. That call sign, "Dustoff," took on additional meaning when the DUSTOFF Association was created and it became an acronym for "Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces."

During the Vietnam War, my father told me, "Vietnam is a different kind of war. The battle lines are blurred with the Viet Cong roaming freely in 'safe' areas. You never really feel safe in Vietnam. You never really know who are your friends and who are your enemies." This seems to be a common theme with foreign wars now. In some respects, it describes what seems to be happening in our own country.

When I took my own oath of office as a U.S. Army officer, I found it interesting that the oath of a soldier is to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." It is not the natural resources or land that is important. It is the principles established in the U.S. Constitution that make this unique country the greatest in the history of the world. The oath is not to the president or to an organization but to a Constitution that created a government "of the people, by the people and for the people."

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once reminded us that because the judiciary is by design the "least dangerous" of the three branches of government, it is not "constrained or hobbled" like the legislative and executive branches.

I suppose if veterans from past eras returned to see the state of the country they served and the state of our federal and state constitutions, they might wonder what happened while they were defending the Constitution from our foreign enemies.

Certainly, it would appear to them that in the past 40 years, the judiciary has acted outside its boundaries.

Rather than being the "least dangerous" branch they, the defenders of the Constitution, may see that without being "constrained or hobbled," the judicial branch has in many respects become the most dangerous to the principles established in the U.S. Constitution by the Founders.

On Veterans Day, in memoriam of U.S. veterans of all eras, may we, the citizens of the United States of America, commit to dedicated unhesitating service to our fighting forces by defending the Constitution of the United States from within.

Colonel James B. Fisher, U.S. Army Retired, died August 16, 2008, decorated for heroism six times during his service. Brent A. Fisher lives in Anchorage. He can be contacted at