Cherry Bounce

My dad, Dr. MB Casteix, used to make cherry bounce. His foray into creating adult beverages began when he was quite young. Since he started college two years earlier than most, having skipped two grades, he must have been younger than 16 on his first attempt because he was still living at home with his parents. At that time they were living on Bourbon Street in the building that is now the Famous Door Bar. It was a pharmacy at then, and the family lived above it. I wrote about his cherry bounce escapades here.

I decided I would like to attempt to recreate MB’s cherry bounce, but I don’t have his recipe and have no idea how he made it. I did a search online and found a few recipes, including one that is attributed to Martha Washington.

I did know one thing about MB’s recipe, and that was that it evidently continued to ferment in the bottle. In that linked post above, there was a recalled incident of the top blowing off the bottle and scaring the hell out of our maid. The recipes I found called for adding bourbon, rye, or brandy to the cooked cherry mash then storing that for three months. The alcohol should prevent any further fermenting, I would think. But I have to go with what I have.

So…I created a modified version of Martha’s recipe in smaller test proportions and cooked up a batch. The attached pic is the cherry mash before adding the rye whiskey. Unfortunately, we will have to wait three months to see if it is any good.

So, stand by…

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“You going to wear that?”

I used to consider myself a pretty good dresser. (Note the past tense.) As finances allowed, I stayed up with the styles, especially when younger. While in school, we young men were careful not to make any fashion faux pas that might hurt our chances with the ladies. We would exchange the latest fashion trends amongst ourselves. (Surprised, ladies?)

I worked in a men’s store part-time while in college and learned many things about the proper gentlemanly dress from another salesman who was a VERY dapper dresser, and the women absolutely loved him. From that experience, I learned about proper trouser length, how much cuff should show from under the sleeves of your coat, proper color matching, NEVER mix patterns (which seems to be de rigueur these days, go figure), and other sundry dressing codes for young men.

This carried forward even into my military service. My uniforms were always starched with creases sharp enough to cut thick-skinned tomatoes into paper-thin slices. My sense of style even got me into trouble when I tapered my trousers. My CO obviously wasn’t as fashion conscious as I was, and he made me take the taper out.

Even though my business life after the service, I was required to wear suits to work and I even enjoyed it. As the years passed, the dress codes relaxed to allow just trousers and a nice shirt—but no jeans. Then dress-down Friday came along, and “nice” jeans were allowed. As I neared retirement, even jeans became acceptable every day. Ah, the times they were a-changin’. But that excluded wives.

Eventually, every married male will, at some time, hear that fear-inducing question from their spouse concerning whatever it is they have on when about to head out for the night’s festivities. It comes in three versions, representing ascending levels of both distaste and threats should the offensive behavior continue. Whatever the level of distaste expressed, they all come at that moment when the spouse steps out of the bathroom fully dressed to the nines and encounters innocent you standing there buttoning the last button on your shirt or tidying up the knot of your tie. Let me expand on this below.

Threat Level 1 – She steps forth from the bathroom and finds you standing there. She stops in her tracks. One eyebrow goes up and the other goes down in a questioning glare that begins at your feet and slowly makes its way up to the top of your head. The innocent (clueless) you look like a deer caught in the headlights of a car that is a half a second away from the impact. You very stupidly say, “What?”

Here it comes. In a tone that suggests only mild disagreement with your fashion choices, she casually tosses out (like a hand grenade), “You going to wear that?”

Gentlemen, let me clearly state that “yes” is the wrong answer. Don’t waste your time arguing. Whatever you have on must be changed immediately.

Threat Level 2 – Same scenario as above, but this time that question is asked just a bit differently. It comes out as, “You going to wear THAT?” Note the very strong emphasis on “that.”

Gentlemen, a “yes” answer will mean being sent to the couch for at least three nights. Don’t even think of going there, but tuck your tail and find something to wear that she approves of.

Threat Level 3 – Same scenario but this time the question becomes a command, “You are NOT going to wear THAT!”

Gentlemen, a “yes” reply here will ultimately involve lawyers and cost you lots of money—assuming you survive the night. Save yourself some grief and just let her pick something out, put it on, and shut up.

I don’t know what happened to our sense of fashion between our early years and retirement, but we obviously lost it along the way. At least, that’s what my wife tells me whenever I attempt to dress for some social event.

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Catahoula Book 4

Maybe this long overdue post will motivate me to get this finished. Target date to publish Book 4 is winter 2018. This is from the first chapter. Our story has moved ahead five years from where we last left Rachel, Ethan, Thomas, and Angel beside the Red River with the charred remains of Catahoula Plantation smoldering behind them. The story is being written around the visit and tour of America by Grand Duke Alexei Romanoff of Russia. He traveled the US from November of 1871 through March of 1872. Among his stops were a buffalo hunt in Nebraska in January and Mardi Gras in New Orleans in March. That was the first year Rex paraded, and the Rex theme song, If Ever I Cease to Love, is associated with the Grand Duke. And that is also the working title of Book 4. Here follows a snip from Chapter One.

*****

4 January 1872

Boston, Massachusetts

Angelique LeBeuf Joubert was in trouble—serious trouble—trouble so serious that her father, that would be me, Ethan Joubert, had been summoned all the way from my home in Louisiana to her finishing school in Boston to deal with it. And I did not appreciate getting a telegram on Christmas Eve telling me my daughter was being expelled from her expensive finishing school, thus it was not a very pleasant Christmas at Catahoula Plantation that year. I departed for Boston three days after Christmas.

Anticipating my arrival that very morning, Angel had been ordered to pack her bags, and she knew what that meant. Her bags stacked on the floor beside her, she sat on the very uncomfortable wooden bench outside the headmistress’ office and contemplated her fate for nearly two hours before I arrived.

The morning was cold with a light snow falling when my hired carriage pulled up at the gate of her school. “Wait for me,” I told the driver, and he nodded his agreement. A doorman let me in after my knock and bade me follow him to the headmistress’s office down a long hallway. At the far end, I saw my daughter sitting on a bench and a pile of her luggage nearby. She rose to greet me, but I only gave her an angry nod for a greeting and marched directly into the headmistress’ office. I’m sure that hurt her, but my intention was to tell her she was in real trouble this time.

Mrs, Warton rose to greet me when I entered. “Mr. Joubert, I’m so sorry I had to disturb your Christmas, but…”

Not the least interested in her apologies, I held up my hand to stop her. “Just tell me what she did.” And she did just that—in great detail, reading from a list of offenses four pages long. I suppose she wanted to be sure she didn’t miss anything, thus she saw the need to write them all down for my benefit.

She never offered me a seat, but as she began reading page two of her litany of offenses, realizing this was going to take a while, I took one anyway, seating myself in a large chair across from her desk. Only briefly glancing up to be sure I was paying close attention and stopping periodically only to catch her breath, Mrs. Warton prattled on. And I listened—and got angrier.

About the middle of page three, one particular offense got my attention. “She what?” I yelled.

Mrs. Warton looked up and what I considered a bit of a sneer crossed her lips. She replied evenly, “Sir, I believe you heard me correctly.”

Angel heard me and jumped at the sound of my booming voice coming from the other side of the large oak door. “She must have gotten to the part about the toad,” she muttered to herself.

Mrs. Warton resumed reading from her list, and Angel sat outside listening to the muffled voices occasionally punctuated by an outburst from me. She eventually became somewhat distracted by the little dancing flecks of dust illuminated by the sun’s rays coming in through the window. That may seem odd, considering what was transpiring on the other side of the door, but she often took notice of things others took for granted and failed to notice. Such had become part of her very nature, survival tricks she had learned during those very dark times at the end of the War of Northern Aggression, that terrible time between losing her mother, father, and younger brother and finding a new home with her adopted parents, Rachel and me. Her interest in the dancing dust particles lasted only until the next outburst from on the other side of that door.

Then everything got quiet for her—ominously quiet.

The big oak door suddenly creaked open, and there I stood staring at her. Actually, “glaring” might be a better description. The perfect picture of chastised humility she lowered her head and slowly stood but never took her eyes off mine, which seemed to be cutting all the way down to her very core.

“Poppa…”

“Say nothing,” I replied sharply with a wave of my hand, as my glare became even sterner.

I’m dead! She thought.

I scooped up armloads of her bags and headed for the door. She didn’t move. I stopped and looked back at her. “You coming?”

“I’ve been expelled?”

“Something like that. Were you expecting otherwise?”

I turned abruptly and resumed my march for the front door of the school. She picked up her remaining bags and followed me outside. It was cold and she was thankful for that, hoping it might take some of the heat off my anger.

I stopped when we reached the gate. The waiting carriage was just outside with its driver huddled in his greatcoat and dozing up in the driver’s seat in spite of the light falling snow that collected on him outlining his form. She caught up with me and stopped, making sure she remained out of my easy striking distance. I had never struck her before, but she thought I just might be angry enough to do so this time.

I stood there with my back to her for a long while before I slowly turned to face her. I set her bags down, and with my lips pursed and my eyes tightly closed, as if looking at her was painful, I shook my head in an exaggerated fashion.

A slight chill ran through her body. Here it comes!

And I began, “You were constantly in trouble here. Your marks were awful. You never paid attention in any of your classes, except art. And you were constantly in trouble—oh wait, I already said that.”

“I liked art…”

I paused my rant and briefly looked skyward and took a deep breath, slowly letting it out. “Angel, did you really put a dead toad in Mrs. Warton’s soup?”

With a frown on her face, she shrugged innocently and looked to the side as if considering her answer. “Well, I figured she might enjoy frog. We do eat them back home.”

I fought back a smile and just barely succeeded. “The legs—we eat the legs, not the whole frog—entrails and all, much less one that has been dead since November.”

“Poppa, she’s mean as a snake…” she started to explain, but nothing she would have said beyond that could possibly have made any sense or helped her cause.

With my extended palm, I stopped her to resume my interrogation. “And when questioned about the toad, did you reply that if she didn’t want to eat it, you could suggest another place she could put it?”

She stuttered, “I-I know how that must sound, but I meant the garbage.”

“Bull shit!”

“Poppa, your language. I’m a lady and not accustomed to such talk.”

“Bull shit, again!” I said it loud enough that time that the hackney driver looked up from his slumber. “You needn’t pretend those words—or worse—have never crossed your lips!”

I had her there and she knew it. She took one step back and tried to change the subject. “Poppa, you know I really didn’t want to come here. Even Momma was against it, but you insisted. And you’re right. I’m not much of a lady, am I?”

No longer able to hold it back, I lost it then and burst out laughing as I took the two strides to her that separated us and grabbed her by the shoulders. For a long moment, I just looked at her and shook my head. I then pulled her to myself and swallowed her in a loving embrace. “Angel, what am I going to do with you?”

Relieved that I wasn’t going to kill her, she put her arms around me and hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me in years. “How about take me home where I belong?”

“That was your intention all along, wasn’t it?”

“Ummm, maybe… I miss you and Momma and Thomas. And I miss Catahoula. It’s my home. Perhaps you can never understand how important you have become to me?”

“You’re right, and I should have understood that especially considering what you went through as a child, losing your own parents and home. I’m sorry. You and your mother were right. This finishing school was not a good idea for you. Let’s go home.”

*****

Needless to say, they didn’t make it back to Catahoula as soon as they thought…

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My TIVO is Possessed by the Devil – Part 2

I wrote here about how I thought my TIVO might be possessed by the Devil because I was unable to delete a recorded movie, named ironically Devil in the Blue Dress. Well, God “exorcised” the problem. We had an electrical storm that knocked out power the other night, and that caused the TIVO to reset. And da Devil is done gone! Hallelujah!

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My Tivo Is Possessed by the Devil!

I cut the cable some months ago, or more accurately, I broke the dish and got rid of satellite. In its place I got a very nice antenna which picks up about 40 stations, maybe 20 of which come in clear and I am interested in watching. I also bought a Tivo Roamio OTA DVR which records over-the-air (OTA) channels and accesses apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime among others. OK, now that you have the background here is the problem.

Janis recorded a movie recently off one of the OTA channels. It turns out to have been appropriately named Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington. I never watched it, and Janis got about ten minutes into it and decided it wasn’t for her, so she deleted it—or more accurately, tried to delete it. My Tivo disagreed with her decision to delete the movie and refused to do so. None of the usual methods of deleting something recorded on the Tivo has worked. It pretends to delete the movie, but it always comes back! I can delete other recordings, but not the Devil!

It gets worse. Janis called me in to see if I would have any better luck. Nope. After several and various attempts, the Devil would not go away. I decided to let it rest and try the next day as if that might make a difference. It didn’t. Repeated attempts to delete it failed. Each time I deleted it, the Tivo puts an “X” beside its name in the guide, pretending that it is about to delete it—and then deletes the “X” and puts the blue dot back—and, of course, the Devil in a Blue Dress is still there!

And—it gets even spookier. Forgetting my recent failure with the Sync Witch in my truck, I was determined that I was not going to let some stupid electrical device outsmart me. So I devised a very clever plan to delete the movie. There is a delete option I had not yet tried. You can set the Tivo to delete a recording on a certain date in the future. “That’s it!” I said in my eureka moment. With a sneering cackle, I set the Devil to delete in two days, August 12.

Two days later I checked and the Devil was still there—AND he had reset my delete date to August 14! “This is some crazy fluke,” I muttered and reset the delete date to August 16.

Well, it is August 17 as I write this, and the Devil in a Blue Dress IS STILL THERE and has reset my delete date to August 18!

I have no illusions that it will actually delete on that date. Once more I have been beaten by artificial intelligence. As a society, we are doomed. The movie “Terminator” was prophetic.

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Conversations With My Truck – Part 2

Well, it happened again. All I wanted was to play my music on my iPhone through my truck’s audio system. That should be as simple as pressing a button, and the “Sync Lady” replies with “Please say a command.” I reply with “Bluetooth audio”, and she plays my iPhone music for me. Sometimes she gets confused and asks me if I really said “Bluetooth Audio?”

“Yeesss.”

But this time she didn’t play any music – silence. So, I press the button on my steering wheel again, and she replies, “Please say a command”. To which I reply, “Resume play”, which usually wakes her up and she plays my music. That didn’t work. Again silence. Button again and this time, assuming she is hard of hearing, I yell, “RESUME PLAY!”

She must have been offended by my tone because I think I could detect a bit of irritation in her voice when she replied she didn’t understand me and I should repeat my command. We go through the button, command process once more, and she is still playing dumb and claiming she doesn’t understand me. And I am becoming irritated—really irritated!

I called her the “Sync Lady” above, but at this point, I am using a different name for her, and it rhymes with “Sync Witch”.

Button once more and she replies, and this time I am sure her tone was sarcastic, “Please say a command.”

OK. At this point, I lost it and replied with language that was unbecoming of a gentleman. Yes, that included profanity—lots of it, in fact—and expressed very loudly. There might also have been some fist shaking and flying spittle—I don’t recall all the details.

Defeated, I pushed the “CD” button on my radio and contented myself to listening to my Pink Floyd CD, over which I still had some level of control.

At that point, I’m sure I heard a soft but sadistic cackle come from HER!

 

UPDATE: It seems I am not the only one having these voice recognition problems.

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The Honey Island Swamp Monster

The Honey Island Swamp is on the Louisiana/Mississippi border along the Pearl River in the “toe” of the Louisiana boot. The entrance to the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area often referred to as “Honey Island”, is located where I-59 crosses the Pearl. The WMA is a favorite hunting and fishing place for the relatively nearby New Orleans residents. It is mostly swamp and marsh laced with small bayous with not a lot of high ground, especially when the Pearl reaches anything approaching flood stage. Deer and squirrel hunting is popular in the WMA.

It is also reputed to be the home of the Honey Island Swamp Monster (HISM), Louisiana’s version of Bigfoot. My son Heath and I met the HISM many years ago on a squirrel hunting trip. Many years ago is something like 1985ish. It was just after dawn and we had settled into our stands in a grove of oak trees, taking a seat at the base of an old oak. Heath, being around 15 then on one of his first hunts, was sitting with me so I could keep an eye on him and make sure he hunted safely.

Must have been a spot that was hunted out, because we saw no squirrels. Not being an early riser, I was soon dozing off. That’s when we heard “him”. It was a baleful cry off in the distance as if the HISW had lost his momma and was calling out for her.

Heath poked me in the ribs. “You hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Listen.”

It was obvious he was concerned, so I blinked myself into wakefulness and listened. Soon, I heard it, too. A long tone that changed pitch with no apparent purpose than to cry out almost as if in pain or calling to a like being.

Another poke in the ribs from my 15-year-old. “What’s that?”

“Ummm. Nuttin,” I replied.

Heath wasn’t buying it. “That sounded like something. What?”

We listened but heard nothing more out of our HISM and began to relax. We moved to another area in hope of finding squirrels and settled down again under another big oak tree.

And we heard him again, that long drawn-out cry, but this time it was a bit closer. “Dad, what is that?”

I fessed up. “I have no idea. Never before heard anything like that in the woods—ever.”

Then the unspoken was finally spoken. Heath looked at me and said, “Is that the Honey Island Swamp Monster?”

“Naaahh,” I assured him, but vacating the Honey Island Swamp suddenly seemed like it might be a good idea. “I’m getting hungry. How about we head back to the truck for something to eat?”

Heath readily agreed. We worked our way back to the trail we had come in on, which happened to be closer to the direction the HISM screams had been coming from. As we nervously headed for the truck we catch sight of movement in the bushes beside the trail and out steps a man with a shotgun. We startled each other briefly, and then he waved as he approached. “Any luck with squirrels?” he asked in Spanish-accented English.

“No. We’re giving up.”

“Me either,” he replied. “I’m trying to find my hunting buddy. You see anyone around…?” And he described how he was dressed.

“Nope. Haven’t seen anyone.”

“I’ve been calling to him with my bugle, but he doesn’t answer.” And he reached around his back and pulled out a beat up old bugle that hung by a cord across his shoulders. And I’m thinking we have found the Honey Island Swamp Monster. He must have noticed my questioning expression and said, “We use these down in (some Central American country) where I’m from to communicate in the jungle.”

Heath and I looked at each other and smiled. So much for our Honey Island Swamp Monster.

You can see a video taken in the 1960s that supposedly shows the HISM at this link.

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Stupid Stuff

As I look back on my life (I am 73 as of 24 July 2017), I sometimes wonder how I survived some of the stupid things I did. Many of those I don’t even wish to recall much less speak of. Yes, they were that dumb. I assumed, with advancing age and its associated experience, I would get better at avoiding that. Maybe not. And maybe it is advanced aging that is reversing some of my “learning”.

I recently had one of those “stupid stuff” experiences, and it was a real first for me. We were traveling by car to Florida with some friends. There were enough of us that we took two vehicles. I was driving my Ford F-150 crew cab with Janis and one passenger. It was lunch time, and we stopped at a gas station outside of Mobile, Alabama, for something to eat. The station had an attached Wendy’s hamburger joint. Unfortunately, parking was unusually limited for a station and restaurant combo as large as this one and finding a parking space was difficult. I finally found one at the end of a row and the ensuing conversation concerning whether or not the other car of friends also found one distracted me.

We got out and went inside, ordered lunch and had a relaxing meal. I informed Janis that I needed to go to the restroom before getting back on the road and sauntered off to attend to same. On the way, I happened to stick my hand in my pocket and discovered my truck key was not there, and I always lock my truck! Rats! No problem. I always give Janis the extra key when we travel—only this time I forgot to do so.

After attending to business I rejoined our group and asked—hopefully—if Janis had, by chance, grabbed the extra key out of the drawer when we left home. Nope. Still no problem. I have that key pad entry system on the truck, which I never use. I knew (hoped) the card with the code on it that Ford gave me when I bought the truck was still in my wallet. Half expecting my truck to be stolen, I immediately decamped for the parking lot with the rest of the crew in hot pursuit.

Upon arriving at the truck, I discovered the doors were not locked thus no need to search for the code card. I also discovered my wallet was in the console next to my pistol, the key was still in the ignition, and — AND — the engine was running!

That is the first time I have ever done something like that.

When I related that story to my friend Mike, he told me a story of a similar event he experienced. Mike does graphic installations both inside and outside of buildings. For outside installs, he often uses a lift trailer which will extend up to 30 feet. He drags that long trailer behind his Suburban when he has an outside installation to do a job that day. One day he needed to swing into Walmart to get something. She slipped the Suburban into a slot and went inside. About a half hour later he came out to discover he had forgotten he had the trailer that day. His suburban was in its parking space with that long lift trailer sticking out in the drive between the rows of parked cars. Whoops!

Inside installs often require the use of a ladder, and Mike sometimes pushes the envelope a bit too far. One night he was doing an install in a grocery store over the dairy section. He leaned out a bit too far and tipped the ladder over. He landed in the yogurt.

“Clean up in aisle seven!”

Sometimes I wonder if we will survive old age. Probably not…

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Eight Weeks Later

Remember back eight weeks ago I posted about my grandson going off to Air Force Basic Training? It is now eight weeks later and here he is.

Janis and I drove over to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, to be there for Blake’s graduation from basic training. It was a grueling trip that was supposed to be about eight hours that turned into more than ten with several periods of stop and go traffic—an hour and a half just to get through Houston! It was an intense and emotion-filled weekend as we joined his parents, his sisters, and some cousins as well as an aunt and another grandmother. Having done my basic training at Lackland back in December 1968-January 1969, I found it particularly moving. This was especially so because Heath, my son and Blake’s father, had also been there a few decades after me, in 1996, when he did his basic training at Lackland. Three generations of Casteix men in the Air Force. The three of us are in the pic below.

Blake will next be going to NAS Pensacola for training in “Non-Destructive Inspection”. That means he will be inspecting aircraft for structural integrity, and the testing involves non-destructive processes. It is a highly technical field. Interestingly, Heath has his own business doing aircraft airframe repair and then FAA certification of the repaired parts. He learned that trade in the Air Force. Later as a civilian, he took training in what Blake will be doing, and his business is also a FAA certified NDI inspection station which has more business than he can handle. That means Blake will have a job waiting for him when he gets out.

I guess you have figured out by now that we are all very proud of Blake.

A point I would like to make in closing is that “education” need not always mean college, and success and financial security need not require a college degree. Heath makes a lot more money than I did at this point in his life. I am of the opinion that many kids in college today are wasting their money and would be better served by military training or a good trade school. Unfortunately and incorrectly, that sometimes carries a negative stigma for some people.

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Memorial Day 2017

This one is kind of special. The reason why is that twenty-one-year-old young man in the photo, the one in the white shirt holding up his right hand. That is Blake Casteix, my grandson. That was Tuesday when he was in the process of swearing to “defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic”. He is now at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, for Air Force basic training. That will be followed by tech school at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he will be trained in cyber security. Sounds like a career field he can use when he gets out, assuming he doesn’t make a career of the Air Force.

His dad was also in the Air Force, where he learned a trade, one he is using today, as a civilian, to make a good living with his own business. Everyone thinks you must go to college to be successful and make the big bucks. Ain’t so. There are many career fields in the military where a young man or woman can learn a trade and make a good living at it afterward—or even use it as a springboard to attend college on the GI Bill. Sadly, not many young people are willing to do that. Instead, they whine about not having any opportunities. I am calling Bravo Sierra on that. If you want it, there are ways to get it, but you might have to work for it instead of having it handed to you.

I was also in the Air Force but after I graduated from college. I had my college handed to me by my parents. It took the Air Force to gave me maturity I did not get in college. There I learned to do my job in a way that reflected on the fact that someone’s life might depend on how well I did it. For that reason, I believe in universal military service. Unfortunately, that would open the military up to having a lot of people that will never “get it” and never appreciate what it can give them. And maybe it is better if it isn’t that way.

This Memorial Day I salute Blake Casteix and all those who have written that check out to the United States of America for payment “up to and including my life”.

The complete Oath of Enlistment –

“I, _____, 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.”

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