10 November 1775 — 10 November 2020
Who are these people who claim the title, U.S. Marine?
They are men and women who come from every part of the United States of America. They are all high school graduates with many having college credits or degrees. Many left their homes as teenagers seeking adventure; with an average age of 25-years, Marines are the youngest overall of all the uniformed services. They are patriots—men and women who love their country enough to be willing to place themselves in harm’s way defending the American way of life. When they left home, they left all the comforts of home to discover the unknown.
At recruit training or officer’s candidate school, they learned the basics of what it takes to become a Marine. They learned that in the Marine Corps, learning is a lifetime endeavor. Upon graduating from Bootcamp or OCS, every Marine receives his or her first Marine Corps Emblem, signifying that they have passed the test for becoming a United States Marine. They then proceed to infantry training because every Marine is a rifleman.
There are dozens of occupational fields in the Marine Corps, many of these are highly technical areas that demand further training. After their initial period of training, Marines are scattered to the four winds and the corners of the earth. In the process of becoming a United States Marine, they discovered a new family —one composed of men and women who believe as they do, whose values and devotions equal their own. They inherited a unique tradition of devotion to duty that exceeds those of any other service organization; it has been passed to them by every previous generation dating back to 1775. In time, they will pass this tradition on to those who follow them. Part of this tradition demands that they keep faith with their God, their Country, and their Corps. In the Marines, no one cares what color skin you have; they only care about the content of your character. There is no place in the Marine Corps for people of low character.
Marines seldom get enough sleep, yet their energy levels remain high. They take great pride in their uniforms and work constantly to present the best possible military appearance. No one ever wants to become a “raggedy assed Marine.” They are professionals who work hard to develop, maintain, and enhance their unique skills. They are scholars who constantly read about the art and science of warfare. The more they learn, the more they want to know.
Marines are also known to play hard. Some smoke and drink too much, but they are absolutely devoted to maintaining their personal and professional integrity, their honor, their commitment. They are courageous in the face of great danger. They do not behave bravely on the battlefield for the Corps; they do it for each other, but this is what makes the Marine Corps unique. Tragically, Marines sometimes lose a brother or sister; when this happens, they honor them publicly and mourn them privately.
We don’t pay Marines enough money, but most never joined for money —they joined to serve. All they ask in return for their many sacrifices is the gratitude of the American people, and the respect they have earned and deserve. Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter most: letters from back home matter because there are occasions when Marines aren’t sure they’ll ever see home again.
Young Marines grow up fast, because serving as a leader is a weighty responsibility. Most Marine corporals have more responsibility than do most corporate executives. They learn to make hard decisions; they learn how to live with the consequences of those decisions. Yet, in some other ways, Marines never grow up at all … almost every Marine has a wicked sense of humor.
Marines fight for freedom; that is, the freedom of people whom they’ve never met. Some Marines experience the crucible of war and must learn how to deal with its physical and psychological effects. No matter whether Marines served in combat or not, every Marine stands the chance of going into a war zone; Marines are known to volunteer for combat service. Every Marine knows that tough training pays off. They sweat in tough training, so they won’t have to bleed in combat. All Marines give something of themselves in the service of their country —some Marines give all.
Never ask a Marine what it’s like to serve in combat —it is an experience that defies explanation.
Marines love their time-honored rites and ceremonies, for these are the things that strengthen their bond with fellow Marines. When the going gets tough, it is this bond that nurtures them. The future may be uncertain, but one thing is constant: a Marine can always count on a fellow-Marine. It’s what Marines do. Together, Marines learn how to deal with victory and tragedy.
At the end of their Marine Corps adventures, some Marines go back home and take up their lives where they left off … but none of these men and women are ever the same as when they left for boot camp because being a Marine is a lifelong endeavor. There are no ex-Marines.
One-third of all Marines remain in the Corps because they have fallen in love with the uniqueness of the Marine Corps lifestyle. They crave the challenges of adventurous service. Some Marines remain in the Marines because the Corps has become their home.
You should know that Marines are great story-tellers. Most of these stories contain embellishments; the more often they are told, the greater the embellishments become. Eventually, their stories become legend —and in some cases, myth. Elite forces tell such tales. Some are hilarious, some are true, and some are both. No matter what the tale, Marines always speak highly of their Corps.
The title Marine is earned the hard way and remains effective throughout a Marine’s lifetime. It has no monetary value, but it is a priceless gift. When Marines meet one another, in uniform or civilian attire, there is also the exchange of a nod, or perhaps a tight smile. There is but one exception to the Marine for Life Rule: it is that no one can remain part of the Marine family who dishonors themselves or our Corps.
To those who are serving as Marines presently, to those who have gone before, I thank you for your sacrifices. Remember the good times, and if you haven’t done so, I urge you to seek your peace for the unhappy moments. Stand tall, always, because future generations will one day stand upon your shoulders.
I know this because I am a United States Marine.