Never Relieved of That Oath

Never Relieved of That Oath

Or

Oh God, is that a Major on the Lawn?

 

I have great respect for military veterans. I have a number of them in my extended friend zone, and a number of them in my family. My family has members that have served in wars going back to the Revolution, and I’m proud of that service. I say that because I’m going to tackle a meme that goes around Facebook among veterans, and I wanted to make clear that it is only against a meme that I believe is incorrect rather than against anyone’s service.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way: Of course you were relieved of your oath to fight enemies both foreign and domestic.

Confused?

Veterans Oath

The above meme is one that goes around on Facebook from time to time among veterans of a certain political bent, not infrequently after events like the shootings in Colorado and California or the attacks in Paris. It sounds decent enough, right? Nice and patriotic, and a reminder that there is something about military service that stays with a veteran for the rest of their lives. You also see it phrased as “I am a Veteran. My Oath of Enlistment has no expiration date,” such as the shirt at http://www.cafepress.com/mf/75586877/i-am-a-veteran-my-oath-of-enlistment-has-no-expira_tshirt?utm_content=ChannelAdvisor_US_shopping&utm_medium=productfeed&utm_source=CSE&productId=1441259092.

The problem being that it is completely wrong, and demonstrably so within the structure and nature of the military oath.

The Military Oath

The current U.S. Oath of Enlistment is as follows:

“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.”

10 U.S.C. 502.

Officers instead swear the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office:

“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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

5 U.S.C. 3331.

Not Dated

Now, the meme is correct up to a point—there is no time frame referenced in the oath. That taken in a vacuum could imply that the oath is meant to be a lifetime commitment, especially when combined with the fact that there is no accompanying “de-enlistment” oath. There is also the fact that within the Enlisted oath, as opposed to the Officer oath, there is no reference to discharging the duties of any office or position; rather it refers only to the person defending, bearing true faith and allegiance, and following orders.

But a statutory requirement is often taken not just in its own words but in the context it occurs in, and this one is no different. One of the ways that we can find the intent of a regulation is how it is applied by the agency responsible for applying it, and whether or not that application has been challenged. In this instance, then, we need to look at how the agencies in question—the U.S. Military services—apply the regulation.

If it was the expectation of the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines that the Oath of Enlistment be eternal and binding then there would be no reason to ever swear it again. If there was no mechanism for its removal then all that would be required is to swear it at the time of your enlistment (or commission) and it would be good for the remainder of your earthly existence.

But of course, that isn’t the case. The re-swearing of the Oath of Enlistment is ubiquitously depicted in culture, from actual depictions of the military to fictional ones. Here are pictures of soldiers reenlisting in the U.S. Army:

Reenlistment pic

http://armylive.dodlive.mil/index.php/2012/07/images-of-the-army-reenlistment/

That image even pervades depictions of the military in the future; see, for example, Marko Kloos’ Terms of Enlistment, which features the main character re-swearing his own future country’s oath multiple times across his career.

This is borne out even in the paperwork that is signed upon reenlistment. U.S. Army DD Form 4 (http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/forms/eforms/dd0004.pdf, also available as a sample in Army Regulation 601-280) is the Enlistment/Reenlistment form, which is filled out at the appropriate time. Section E of that form is the Confirmation of Enlistment or Reenlistment, and it contains in it the whole Oath of Enlistment with space for the service member’s name. After filling that in it is signed, and then there is a section for an Officer to sign that “The above oath was administered, subscribed, and duly sworn (or affirmed) before me this date.”

So this tells us very plainly that it is the expectation of the U.S. Army, at the very least, that your Oath of Enlistment has an expiration date: The expiration of your enlistment. And that it is considered to be a vital part of remaining in the service that it must be done every time. If you have not sworn your Oath of Enlistment/Reenlistment, that means that you are not officially a soldier (or sailor, airman, or marine). In Part C of the DD 4, it explains: “My enlistment/reenlistment agreement is more than an employment agreement. It effects a change in status from civilian to military member of the Armed Forces.” The oath is a sine qua non of that agreement and therefore of being a member of the military. Remember those pictures—many of them were in war zones. If it was anything less than a fundamental requirement, surely they would have waited.

But this also works in reverse. When you are no longer bound by that agreement, you are no longer bound by the status of being a military member of the Armed Forces, of which a vital part is the Oath. By no longer being a military member of the Armed Forces, whether through honorable or less than honorable circumstances, you are no longer bound by the oath that you swore to become a military member of the Armed Forces. There is no other logical schema in which the requirement of re-swearing the oath makes sense as a requirement for reenlistment, and the emphasis placed upon it.

And for comparison, the Oath of Enlistment isn’t the only oath people swear without an ending. As pointed out above, Officers swear a similarly endless oath. But more than that, so do many other government officials. For example, every 4 years we have a man stand outside in January in Washington, D.C. and swear the following:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” U.S. Const. Art. 2, Sec. 1, Clause 8.

Note that the Presidential Oath also doesn’t have an expiration date listed. There is nothing in it about serving for the term elected to, or for stepping down peaceably. The rest of the clause only says “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation”. If it were not meant to expire with the end of his term in office (similar to the term of enlistment) then there would be no need to swear it for a second term. And if oaths without a definite ending are meant to be never ending then theoretically all Presidents are bound by it for their whole lives as well, with their own Facebook memes; perhaps the oldest living President, by that logic, is still bound to execute the office. For now that would be George H.W. Bush, but in a few years it would likely be Bill Clinton and then won’t half the country be thrilled (and the other half perhaps actually thrilled).

Clearly therefore the Oath of Enlistment is believed by the military and U.S. Government itself to expire with your military service, just based on logical interpretation. But that is ok, because veterans really shouldn’t want to still be bound to it…

The Other Part of the Oath

Because if the Oath of Enlistment really has no expiration date that applies to the whole oath, not just part of that. Let’s look at it again, with another section highlighted:

“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.”

Now, I actually like President Obama. I voted for him not once but twice, and have never hidden that. I have certainly had some disappointments with him, largely in that I do not feel he has been effective enough at going for full on liberal ideals, but I am proud to have voted for him twice. But allow me to ask a question for you, and for this question you may substitute any President you want whether you like them or not:

Would you want to be required for life to follow any order the President of the United States gave you, or any order of a person he set over you?

Because if the oath lasts forever, then that is what can happen. President Obama (or any other President) could show up at a Veteran’s house and give him a lawful order—and they would not just be likely to follow it given it is the President, but be lawfully required to do so. And even more than that, President Obama could appoint some Major to go to your house and order you to Iraq even if you’ve been retired from the military since Vietnam. Or World War II.

Because remember, the Uniform Code of Military Justice looks dimly on not following orders:

Any person subject to this chapter who—

(1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;

(2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by a member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or

(3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;

shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. 10 U.S.C. 892 (UCMJ Art. 92): Failure to Obey Order or Regulation.

Now under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be lawful for a member of the U.S. Military to give orders to civilians; but under an interpretation of the eternal oath of enlistment, what impediment is there to make such an order unlawful? You cannot argue that one part of the oath is forever and another only applies to your time in the military, as they are both part of the same oath with the same lack of duration.

And as a side note to that: How happy would you be to have to follow the UCMJ for the rest of your life, even decades after you’ve been separated from the military? For example, let’s consider 10 U.S.C. 888 (UCMJ Art. 88):

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

And for those who are non-commissioned, let us refer to Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 (February 19, 2008):

Any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security (in the case of the Coast Guard) or any component of these Departments with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of this Directive shall be avoided.

So roughly that means that if you consider yourself to have never been released from your oath, that you are still bound by UCMJ Art. 88 or the DoDD 1344.10 (as it is a lawful order from an office designated by the Commander in Chief to issue regulations to soldiers). And that means that if your oath of enlistment is eternal and you have posted memes, pictures, updates, or articles against President Obama (such as calling him a traitor, calling to disobey laws he has signed, calling him a dictator) then you have violated still binding laws and regulations and should expect to be brought up on charges before a court martial you are still subject to.

And lest anyone think the DoD is not very serious about those regulations (instituted, I might point out, under President George W. Bush), allow me to share: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/04/25/11394219-marine-who-criticized-president-obama-on-facebook-to-be-discharged?lite

Or Not

That’s the reality of an oath that never goes away, and doesn’t expire with your separation from the military. That’s the price of getting to say proudly no one ever released you from your oath, because you can’t have that cake and eat it too. If no one ever relieved you from defending us against enemies foreign and domestic, no one relieved you of any other part of that oath. And we may well interpret other oaths of other members of the government (which anyone who served in the military was, during their time) similarly. And violation of the rules which once bound you are damning, because they still bind you.

Or not. The other option is to live in the world we actually live in. The one where no military, government department, or court in the land will believe you are still bound by your Oath of Enlistment, because you aren’t. The one where you can criticize the government whenever you want because you are no longer a member of the military, and where you are not bound to follow the orders of the POTUS any more than any other civilian is. I can’t even say you get to choose, because you don’t.

Our veterans gave great service when they swore their oaths, and that deserves recognition. But if they have become veterans it means that time of active service came to an end, and that it also ended their obligations under the oaths they swore. And it doesn’t make any sense, nor would it be actually palatable to even veterans who like the current President, for it to be any other way.

27 thoughts on “Never Relieved of That Oath

  1. Dumbest thing I ever read from what is supposed to be written by someone educated!

    The oath is a pact. A promise. Should be as good as a mans word.

    NOT, to be dissected and misconstrued

    Obviously, you were never in the military so you cannot know what the promise really is to the people that live and die by it so you and others CAN be free in this glorious country. If you don;t like it LEAVE

  2. Even though you did a nice job of writing a lengthy statement regarding the expiration of the military oath, the truth is you just showed how much you don’t know, how much a hypocrite you are and sadly how judgmental and incorrect you can be. For the sake of everyone that read your entire post I will keep this short and in very plain English. First you are both right and at the same time very wrong. There is a point clearly stated in the reenlistment process where it is loudly stated and understood that you have been released from ACTIVE SERVICE (yes that’s bold for a reason) at which point you are given the freedom to address anyone including those above you however you want with no risk of any punishments. That is very quickly followed up with sharing the oath and returning to ACTIVE STATUS. (Yes again with the bold). Next I’ll make a blanket statement regarding your pathetic attempt to give sarcastic examples of how “we veterans” aren’t willing to except all parts of the oath for life is just plain BULLSHIT. You made a number of statements regarding “LAWFUL ORDERS” after our “ACTIVE DUTY STATUS” has expired. You better do more homework Skippy because most of not all veteran’s will continue like we never missed a day to follow orders lawfully. However in the case of your crappy example your wrong. The UCMJ clearly states that we must follow the lawful orders , but it continues on by stating we also have an OBLIGATION to disobey all UNLAWFUL orders. Hear is the facts and truth as clearly stated in great detail in the US constitution (remember this is what we share and oath too) Your beloved president can show up on my door step to give me an order personally and “with all due respect sir” I will tell him to go f*** himself. The reason is that your president by exact word for word description has committed high treason against the US constitution. Now not only does this make each and every order of his unlawful but as a side note if we are ” officially in a time of war” (which we are officially in a time of war congressionally approved) high treason is punishable by death and can be carried out on the battlefield on the spot….just saying. By default this also makes every order passed down through the chain of command unlawful and the officer that chooses to enforce it is also committing treason leaving us enlisted veteran’s under not obligation to do shit and we can’t be punished. In fact the action I believe would meet the requirements for one of if not the highest medal warrant and citation. Now to explain for those that really want to understand…swaring the oath of enlistment obligates you to a lifetime (no expiration date) of supporting and defending the US constitution. That’s it bottom line fact and done period! Saying it in ceremony while changing your DUTY STATUS from inactive to ACTIVE is just for ceremony propose (it looks good) you see one can be releived of duty but one cannot be releived of an obligatory oath. You should learn the difference between the two. You see active, inactive and reserve-active are all statuses under the oath valuntarially taken. The only true time in which you lose the status of obligation is under a dishonorable discharge which also removes all your citizenship afforded rights and privileges save one, the legal right to live in this country. You have no other civil rights after that. So you see people just because we aren’t on duty it doesn’t mean we’re not on call.

    • Thank you for stating the obvious (although not to the peckerwood that wrote it). It is obvious by his own words that he has never served, and to the best of my beliefs a Leftist Liberal Arts major trying his worst to subvert a veterans belief in who he/she still is. My father served I WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I served during the Cold War, Afghanistan, and Iraq. I was NOT told when I retired from active service, nor when I received my official transfer to the Fleet Reserve, that my Oath was relieved, suspended, or even amended. There is a belief at the core of our being that we will continue to perform here at home as we all did in hostile places. Thank you for your service and the service of those that DID give the Ultimate Sacrifice, those that went before, those that currently serve, and those that will. Salute!!

      George Suchey
      U.S.N. (RET)
      1985-2005

    • You are correct. People some times see that once we leave the “Active Duty” that some how our Oath is miraculously gone. It never leave, we live with, we own it. Why? I once saw a meme, that stated that once we swore our oath, what we did was raise our right hand, swore/affirmed to God, that we just signed a blank check to our country, payable, up to and including our LIFE. Now, DOES that even remotely re-symbol something that can be taken away just by leaving “Active Duty”? All that does is just relieve of our duties, not our OATH!

    • Your last sentence says all you need Because we’re not on duty dosnt mean we not on call.Till this day 23 year after leaving USAF I still keep my 45/My 700 Rifle pack and travel bag ready in case I am ever asked to stand a post whether for a day or year the oath remains in place.

  3. STEVE KEIFER You are right on.I am navy from back in the late 50’s and that oath means as much or even more to me today than it did in 1959 when I swore it.

    Weldon Barber

  4. Agreed. The writer is confused and concerned with the legal aspect. For the patriot, the oath is anchored in our hearts forever. That’s what it means.

  5. I agree with you Steve. Also he fails to realize that the first part of this oath “against all enemies foreign and domestic” over rides, even the president, if said president has become a threat to the Constitution.

  6. There is a difference between an enlisted oath and a commissioned oath…former:
    “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers…”
    and latter:
    I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic
    Nothing is stated regarding obeying orders from POTUS or others
    Therefore if Obama executed 2010 DOD Directive 3025.18: military force against American citizens…
    I would refuse the order and I would encourage others, with every breath in my body..officer and enlisted, to do the same..
    As one of the replies notes: ‘The oath is anchored in our hearts forever.’
    Mine has no expiration..it simply IS
    and BTW 3025.18 is direct violation of Posse Comitatus
    Signed a former Navy line officer

  7. This is just about a moot argument considering the defense of all enemies is also a part of the citizenship oath. So, in otherwords, all American citizens are expected to defend the constitution against all enemies. Get real and get on.

    • I kept reading see if any of the comments knew this of the American citizenship oath!
      I AM a USA veteran, born n raised of Apache n French decent to clarify my undeniable oath!

  8. Wow, man. You’re missing the point. An oath is something that someone willfully takes and chooses to incorporate into their life based on their value system and judgement. Yes, it has legal implications, but one does not take it for the sake of being bound by legality. An oath is sworn as a declaration of one’s fortitude and beliefs. Any veteran who, again, chooses to remain faithful to the same principals stated in their oath is doing so because their beliefs are a part of them. It was not the oath that MADE a service member commit to service, it was their resolve, perspective, and values. Should a veteran still embody those ideals, the same fundamental factors are still binding them to the concept. After all, our word, our commitment to what we believe, is far more binding than any contract or expectation. Semper Fi, you idiot – look it up.

  9. Shut up lib…put on your pussy hat and go “resist” somewhere. I’m a Vietnam and Khe Sanh combat veteran. Maybe you could tell me what is was like there.

  10. “I, William Underhill, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

    I said those words well over a quarter of a century ago. I am still ‘on Her Majesty’s service’, and so I am still bound by them, and consequently by Queen’s Regulations & Orders, including the Code of Service Discipline contained therein. When I retire, yes, I will be formally and legally relieved of that oath (although as you mentioned above, no such explicit relief will be stated; it will be implicit in the fact of my retirement from the Royal Canadian Navy). Nevertheless, I understand what a couple of the individuals above are getting at, despite their appalling lack of manners.

    When I retire, I will no longer be under a legal obligation, true. However, I am quite certain that I will consider myself morally bound by that oath, and that will be entirely a voluntary thing on my part, just as my enlistment many years ago was. I see at your blog header above that you live in Calontir and thus are active in the SCA. Let me put it in these terms – when I was offered elevation to the Order of the Pelican, I felt strongly enough about this matter that I said to the King of An Tir that the only way I could swear the oath to him was to have it worded to recognize my prior and greater commitment to Her Majesty.

    On the whole, I will say I found your article intriguing and clearly written, such that a layman could easily follow your train of thought. I just wish the servicemen who previously commented could have done so without displaying such an appalling lack of manners.

    • Very nicely and well-manneredly said. I would proudly serve next to you as my ally to the north.

  11. Hey Canuck…take your self-righteous, arrogant poppycock opinion and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Tell me what war you risked your life in. Did you ride a horsey in your little red uniform?

    • Good to see you’re a champion of free speech, Al. Here’s an idea for you – how about you let the owner of this blog decide who gets to say their say, and you go back to policing up cig butts in your battalion lines?

      • OK Mr. “Order of the Pelican”…LMAO. Bet that was one ferocious collection of “Dogs from Hell” fighters. Their reputation precedes them. “OMG…they’re sending in the Pelicans”. LOL.

        …”when I was offered ***elevation*** to the Order of the Pelican”…

        I can certainly see where your lack of a seriousness for the oath comes from. I, too, was a Cub Scout. Was “elevated” to the rank of Bear.

        LOLOLOLOL!!!!

  12. You are an educated liberal that believes it’s up to you to define intent rather than base your decisions on written word. The first point you are missing in your argument is that an oath is a promise that ‘I’ took and made. You can not interpret or define my intent! An oath or promise has nothing to do with the receiving entity’s intent.

    So take your liberal ass and go to some woman’s march and stop trying to act as though you have an opinion of what my promise or obligation is or was because someone you knew or someone in your family was a person of honor and patriot! You do not gain or deserve their respect through osmosis!

    LIBERALS LIKE YOU DISGUST ME! If my PATRIOTISM OFFENDS YOU… YOUR LACK OF PATRIOTISM OFFENDS ME MORE!

  13. I am ashamed of my fellow Veterans replies on this topic. Also, may I add, Thank you Mr. Canadian for your loyal and honorable service. Canada is one of our most important military allies and it should never be forgotten they held our left flank on D-Day.
    As for the Oath, the author is correct on all he stated. We are no longer legally bound by our Oath. Although, as for me and I’m sure my fellow Veterans, I will always Honor the first part of the Oath, as that is ingrained in my heart and core of my soul. Since the author never mentioned anything about illegal orders, I will give the benefit of the doubt that he knows about that. As for the second part of the Oath, if, God forbid, we are invaded and the front is on or near my doorstep, I would take my personal weapons and join our boys and I would follow any legal orders (as defined by the UCMJ) given. I would do this regardless of my advanced age and broken up body!
    Vires Montesque Vincimus!
    C 1/87 Mortars

    • I apologize Mr. Canadian, the Canadians took Juno Beach at Normandy, not Sword. But still extremely brave, as were they all.

    • Thank you, Sir. The key point a lot of the commenters above seem to have missed is that our host is discussing the LEGAL requirements of an oath of military service and the fairly obvious point (to anyone of normal intelligence) that on separation from active service, one is no longer bound in law to that oath. Neither he nor I has said, anywhere, that discharged veterans should stop upholding their oath voluntarily should they choose; certainly I, for one, will consider myself bound even after I retire to report in and take what duties I am assigned should the need arise; and in the meantime to continue to carry myself proudly and show the virtues of the soldier, the sailor and the airman even when I’m no longer wearing the uniform on a daily basis. I just wish all those excoriating him for his comments would realize this.

      Re: your comments about June 6th, Normandy, 1944 – a LOT of brave troops on all the beaches. A lot of brave troops in Korea, too – the 2nd Battalion PPCLI proudly wears the Presidential Unit Citation awarded them for their actions at Kapyong, to this day. And since then, in numerous wars, police actions, interventions; by whatever name, where the troops go in and hang it all on the line, most recently and ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you for your service, for being willing to stand in harm’s way to protect and defend your nation.

  14. Nice try by the writer. Nearly impressive effort at legalese. But every Veteran knows he has an ongoing moral obligation to live up to his oath—forever. Americans have never waited for laws to be passed to do what is right. Before the U.S. Army was created by Congress, American Patriots had already formed independent militias to fight tyranny and oppression. And if and when the time comes that foreign or DOMESTIC enemies of the U.S. have taken over our government, Vets will live up to their oaths, and restore lawful Constitutional Government to the U.S.

  15. There is NO expiration on the Oath Of Enlistment. They are two separate activities. Two separate nouns, one sentence. Our enlistment ends when we ETS out of the military (which HAS an expiration)

  16. Liberals. Always running their mouths. You can leave Our Country anytime pollywog. A proud and pissed She’ll back from way back. My service was aboard the USS Midway ,(CV-41) as ship’s company. Weapons Dept/G3 Div/ Elevators. 1982-1986.
    A true Patriot doesn’t look for ways to get out of their oath, they look to implement it constantly.
    It’s called Pride. We came very close to special weapons war with ussr back then. Let Your Kenyan show up at my door! I wouldn’t be wasting words.

    Respectfully,

  17. The oath of enlistment is all in a single sentence so if one part applies forever all the parts do too.

    You will note that the officer’s oath states they are taking it “freely, without any mental reservation” whereas the enlistment oath doesn’t have any such language. That’s because becoming an officer is always a matter of choice, but enlisted persons didn’t all enlist as a matter of choice. Lots of them got drafted.

    Of course the author of this article is correct. Obviously a lot of veterans have personal feelings otherwise, but that doesn’t change facts.

    And yes, I’m a veteran.

  18. What many here and especially the author do not understand is the origin and therefore the meaning behind an “oath”! Yes there are a number of different ones!
    First, our laws (and most of our Constitution are based on English Common Laws. Under which, you swore an oath to your King and Country FOR LIFE! And, many were held to it! For those who took and understood “history” in school (factual history that is) you would understand our Constitution replaced the King.
    I invite the author to learn just a little bit more. Because his education has some glaring holes in it and some contributors could use the same help in understanding. An “Oath” is for life! Unless, you have been released from it by your King (the Constitution). No, release from “Active Service” is not a release from your “Oath”!
    You (the author and others) have no understanding or knowledge of the thoughts and intents of the founders of this Country and authors of the US Constitution. Most all of them lived their oaths until the day they died!
    READ UP ON IT!
    You will learn something!

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