Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by OCF Communications
Episode 8 show notes
For those listeners who are military officers, the following statement should be familiar to you:
“I, (state your name), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance tot he same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”
It’s the Oath of Office for officers. And for those who are enlisted, you have a similar oath. Both end with these four words: “So help me God.” Have you thought about what the phrase means, or what it implies?
Our guest today is Col Richard Toliver, USAF (Ret.), and he’s going to unpack those four words—what he calls a “sacred covenant.” Here’s a little more information about Col Toliver:
Col Toliver graduated from Tuskegee Institute (University) in February 1963 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is a protégé of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and was mentored, trained, and commissioned under their tutelage. Later, he graduated from the USAF Fighter Weapons School (“Top Gun”) at Nellis AFB, Nev., and completed two tours in Southeast Asia with 446 combat missions. He also held key roles in advanced research, development, and testing of tactical fighter aircraft. In addition, he directed the testing and evaluation of other weapon systems for the Department of Defense and allied military programs.
Col Toliver held key staff positions and commanded a number of units in several major commands of the Air Force. His duty assignments included bases throughout the United States, Southeast Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf. He is a Command Pilot with 4,000 flying hours in the F-4, F-15, F-16, OT-37, O-2, T-33, and several civilian aircraft. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Medal with 27 Oak Leaf Clusters. Col Toliver retired from the United States Air Force on March 1, 1989, after 26 years of distinguished service.
An overview of the conversation
Here’s an outline of today’s conversation between Col Toliver and OCF Managing Editor Karen Fliedner.
- [3:18] Col Toliver shares some of his life story, from growing up in the pre-Civil Rights South to his distinguished military career in the USAF (you can read more about Col Toliver’s story here).
- [8:15] The military Oath of Office as a sacred covenant.
- [11:00] How social upheavals and various challenges tested his views of the oath, and how a chaplain helped him reconcile the meaning of those last four words of the oath.
- [19:01] Col Toliver talks about the development of his personal faith, which includes stories of how his mother and early years of adversity planted the seeds of faith.
- [26:24] Col Toliver recounts the story of a young sergeant who was struggling with the idea of reconciling faith while supporting war.
- [27:16] How the oath helped Col Toliver answer the young sergeant, and what the oath means personally to him.
- [29:12] The story of Jesus and the centurion, and the legacy of faith.
- [32:17] Understanding the legacy of one’s calling—a message to junior officers.
- [34:36] Why Col Toliver believes God is still blessing America—the key is a servant’s heart.
- [40:55] Col Toliver shares several books that have been a blessing to him in his life and career.
Resources and books mentioned this episode
“May a Christian Serve in the Military?” By LTG William K. Harrison Jr., USA
“Growing and Building,” by Lt Gen Bruce Fister, USAF (Ret.)
“Truman,” by David McCullough
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
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