Last Sunday, my good friend Z published a quote by Marine Corps Major General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, who wrote eloquently of the spiritual in time of war. “Miracles must be wrought if victories are to be won, and to work miracles, men’s hearts must be afire with self-sacrificing love for each other, for their units, for their divisions, and for their country.”
Americans do not go to war lightly for everyone realizes that war is a serious business. Neither do they go to fight because they want to; no one who is sane enjoys war. Americans go to war because they must.
There is nothing clean and simple about the battlefield. It is both horrible, and complex—and this means that in order to succeed, someone has to know how to do it. Someone must know of its horrors in order to prepare the uninitiated for the ordeal that awaits them. This is the task we assign to our regular forces—the career NCOs and officers who are responsible for making sure that our military services maintain their ability to defend our nation. Each of our military services has distinguished themselves through their own combat history, their own service traditions, and the mission assigned to them by the Congress of the United States.
“There were north westerners with straw-colored hair and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of eastern universities on them. There were large-boned fellows from Pacific Coast lumber camps and tall, lean southerners who swore amazingly in gentle drawling voices. There were husky farmers from the Corn Belt and youngsters who had sprung to arms from the necktie counter. And there were also a diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders, and bone-deep sunburn and intolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth. They were the [professional] leathernecks, the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home. And they transmitted their temper and character and viewpoint to the high-hearted mass, which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.
“There’s nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows going along to fight. And yet, they represent a great deal more than individuals mustered into a Division. There is also what is behind those men. The old battles, long forgotten that secured our nation. Traditions of things endured, and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever — and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I have never heard combat soldiers mention. All this … passes into the forward zone to the point of contact where war is grit with horrors and where common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable prompting of fear. And in this, I think, is glory.”
It remains thus to this very day …