As a veteran of the US Navy, I’ve always respected the secular nature of the branches of the American armed forces. Maintaining a secular position about religious matters is not only compelled by law, it’s also necessary for logistics purposes. An organization made up of people from every religious background would find itself less cohesive and coherent if it picked and promoted one of those religious positions over all the others. But there’s one tiny, insignificant, official, and non-secular position. It’s the official songs of the armed forces.
The Coast Guard’s “Semper Paratus” is the only completely secular song of the bunch. The rest mention god in one way or another. Let’s break it down one by one.
The Air Force sings a song simply titled “The U.S. Air Force.”
God is mentioned in the second verse:
Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder
Sent it high into the blue
Hands of men blasted the world a-sunder
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore.
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!
The Army rocks out to “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Faith in God is mentioned in the third chorus:
Men in rags, men who froze,
Still that Army met its foes,
And the Army went rolling along.
Faith in God, then we’re right,
And we’ll fight with all our might,
As the Army keeps rolling along.
The Marines belt out the “Marines Hymn”
Heaven is mentioned in the third verse.
Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.
And the Navy chants “Anchors Aweigh”
Faith and God are mentioned in the third verse.
Blue of the Mighty Deep; Gold of God’s Sun
Let these colors be till all of time be done, done, done,
On seven seas we learn Navy’s stern call:
Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All.
While none of these songs are explicitly Christian or other, they do make the assumption that everyone in the military believes in one god or another. This is incredibly frustrating as an atheist, but it’s even more frustrating as a veteran, someone who took an oath to protect the constitution.
But to be honest and perhaps blunt, I don’t think it’s even worth trying to change the lyrics. It would take tremendous effort, and it would probably definitely fail. These songs are so ingrained in military culture that I bet even atheists sing the verses without giving them a second thought.