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The World's Greatest Band of Warriors is Older than the Nation they Serve

Happy 244th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps

November 11, 2019

In case you were wondering why the banks and schools are closed today, it is in honor Veteran’s Day. I’m sorry I have to mention that, but many Americans simply are not aware of the fact. FOX News honored Veteran’s this whole weekend, but I didn’t see any mention of this important day when I surfed CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS. To be fair, they may have made a brief mention of Veterans at some point that day, but they certainly didn’t take the time to honor them the way FOX did. 

I guess it’s just not fashionable in our current toxic, politically correct atmosphere to appreciate the sacrifices of our Veterans and their families. During Obama's eight years in the White House, he did much to damage our military, both with his disrespectful words and by keeping his campaign promise to cut our military in half. I have been so happy these last three years as I watched President Trump use his influence to help set a new tone of respect and appreciation for both our active duty military personnel, and the Veterans of the various branches. You can tell that he really respects and loves our military men and women.

As I write this, today is the 244th Birthday of the Marine Corps, and tomorrow when this article will be published, is Veteran's Day. So I thought it was particularly fitting that - in addition to expressing my appreciation and respect for all veterans - I pay tribute to the Marine Corps.

On this day, November 10, in 1775 an amazing fighting force was born. I doubt anyone involved at the time foresaw how the Marines would change not just the United States, but also the whole world. And I am sure none of the first Marines understood that their brotherhood would come to be both admired and/or feared by the fighting forces of every other nation in the world.

During the Revolutionary War, future U.S. president John Adams drafted a resolution that "...two Battalions of Marines be raised" to serve as the landing forces for the new Continental Navy. The Resolution was passed on November 10, 1775, which is now observed as the official birth date of the United States Marine Corps.

These first Marines distinguished themselves in both land and sea battles during the Revolutionary War. Following the War Marines led the way in our first official military action as a nation, defeating the Muslim Barbary pirates. Since then they have participated in every war of the United States, and in almost every case were the first in the fight. Altogether, U.S. Marines have carried out more than 300 landings on foreign shores, in addition to dozens of land and air assaults.

Today there are more than 300,000 active-duty and reserve Marines in three divisions. Each has expeditionary forces for quick responses, and each is self-sufficient, having their own air forces, artillery, tanks, and armored landing vehicles.

I served in the Marine Corps from 1966 to 1969, during the Vietnam era. I am still a Marine. (More on that later.) There are hundreds of great quotes from all sources honoring the Marine Corps, so writing this article will be easy. Much of it will be made up of those quotes. 

There is a lot of inter-service rivalry, but all the armed services respect and appreciate each other. Much of the rivalry takes the form of jokes, usually at the expense of the Marines, which imply that Marines are “as dumb as a bag of rocks.” For instance, General Jerry Boykin, US Army (Ret.) has a bottomless supply of Army-Marine jones, with which he likes to torment me. Every time we speak at the same event he takes the opportunity to use one of them. I have to suffer in silence because he outranks me. He was a 3-Star General and I was a Lance Corporal. (Although, come to think of it, an argument could be made that an enlisted Marine is a better warrior than an Army General or a Navy Admiral…) 

An example of the type of jokes we Marines have to endure is the one where Armed Forces radio announcer comes on the air in the morning. “For all you airmen, it’s 0800 hours. For you seamen, it’s 8 bells. For you Army ground-pounders it’s 8:00 in the morning. And for you Marines, the big hand is on the 12, and the little hand is on the 8.” 

On the other hand, we Marines know how to dish out the insults in turn. We say that the Marines go in and win the battles, and then we call the Army in to serve guard duty. The "fly-boys" don't see real battle as we do, but we appreciate their support as we do the real work. And we express gratitude to the Navy for chauffeuring us across the seas to win the wars.

But as I said, that’s all a cover for the respect the services have for each other – and especially for the Marines! Here are a few quotes from officers of all the other military services, as well as from presidents of the United States and the heads of state of other nations – and even from our enemies. 

"I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!" General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur; Korea, 21 September 1950 

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.”
President Ronald Reagan 

“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.” 
Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army 

"Panic sweeps my men when they are facing the American Marines!
Captured North Korean Major 

“A Marine should be sworn to the patient endurance of hardships, like the ancient knights; and it is not the least of these necessary hardships to have to serve with sailors.” 
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery 

“Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They've got really short hair and they always go for the throat.” 
Rear Adm. "Jay" R. Stark, USN; 10 November 1995  

“The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how those guys could fight!”
Major Gen. Frank E. Lowe, US Army; Korea, 26 January 1952  

"There has been one persistent theme through all Axis propaganda. This theme has been that Americans are admittedly rich, that Americans have considerable industrial power – but that Americans are soft and decadent, that they cannot and will not unite and work and fight...Let them tell that to the Marines!"
President Franklin D. Roosevelt 

"The British were chickens, but these new men, these American Marines, they fight like animals. They're not even human."
Taliban Commander after losing to the Marines 

“By their victory, the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and other units of the Fifth Amphibious Corps have made an accounting to their country which only history will be able to value fully. Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, U.S. Navy  

“I am convinced that there is no smarter, handier, or more adaptable body of troops in the world than the US Marines.” 
Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Winston Churchill 

"The Marine Corps has just been called by the New York Times, 'The elite of this country.' I think it is the elite of the world."
Admiral William Halsey, U.S. Navy 

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. “
Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, U.S. Army, Commander of American Forces in WWII  

“I'm a conservative because I believe in peace - real peace, not just peace of mind. I'm a conservative because we understand that real peace comes from the Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps.”
Col. Allen West, US Army (Ret.) 

"Lying offshore, ready to act, the presence of ships and Marines sometimes means much more than just having air power or ship's fire, when it comes to deterring a crisis."
General Colin Powell, US Army (Ret.); former US Secretary of State 

"There is no military body in our country of higher efficiency than the Marine Corps. They take great pride in their profession. They never let things slack a bit."
Rear Admiral C.M. Wilslow, U.S. Navy 

“My only answer as to why the Marines get the toughest jobs is because the average Leatherneck is a much better fighter. He has far more guts, courage, and better officers…These boys out here have a pride in the Marine Corps and will fight to the end no matter what the cost.”
Lt. Richard C. Kennard, US Marine Corps 

"We're surrounded. The enemy is on our right, they're on our left, they're in front of us, they're behind us; they can't get away from us this time. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them." 
General Chesty Puller, USMC, Chosin Reservoir, Korean War 

"It's a funny thing, but, as years go by, I think you appreciate more and more what a great thing it was to be a United States Marine...I am a U.S. Marine and I'll be one till I die."
Ted Williams, Baseball Hall of Famer 

The idea of “Once a Marine, Always a Marine” is foreign to the other services. I’ve talked to many former Army, Navy and Air Force people, both retired and guys who served their hitch. If they talk about their service, it’s always, “I used to be in the ______.” Although they are usually proud of their military branch, I’ve never heard one of them say, “I’m an airman,” or “I’m a sailor” once his service had ended. 

So why do Marines almost universally refer to themselves as Marines – even when they retired or left active duty twenty or fifty years ago? 

Part of it may be this pronouncement from a former Commandant of the Marine Corps:
“A Marine is a Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and you're in a different phase of your life. But you'll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There's no such thing as a former Marine.”
General James F. Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps 

But I think it goes much deeper than that. The Marine Corps is known as the U.S. rapid-reaction force. They are trained to fight by air, sea and land, and usually are the first “boots on the ground.” Marines are known as the world's fiercest warriors. Marines are also entrusted with one of the most important responsibilities of our nation – guarding our embassies and diplomats worldwide. 

Due to its mission and responsibilities, there is a unique pride and esprit de corps among Marines that is not found in the other branches of the US armed services. Sometimes it can be found in elite branches of those services, such as the Army’s Delta Force or the Navy SEALS. But the entire Marine Corps has this spirit. I believe that is because the entire Corps is an elite unit. There are several definitions of esprit de corps:

*A sense of unity and of common interests and responsibilities, as developed among a group of persons closely associated in a task, cause, or enterprise."

*The common spirit existing in the members of a group that inspires enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group."

My favorite: *A feeling of pride, fellowship, and loyalty shared by the members of a particular group." 

Let me share a personal story that demonstrates Marine loyalty. I had enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school during the Viet Nam era. Because there was a drill scheduled at the reserve center prior to my departure for Parris Island I was required to attend it. Naturally, I stood out because I was the only one there in civilian clothes. 

The night before I was to leave for boot camp, my girlfriend Rosalynn and I went to the best pizza joint in town for takeout. Unfortunately, it was also a bar. Three drunk guys overheard my girlfriend say, “I’ll write to you every day while you’re at Parris Island.” Well, it turned out they were sailors, and that set them off. “Oh, you’re a Marine, are you? Think you’re tough, do you?” I told Rosalynn to wait in the car, and hoped the pizza would come out quickly. After a few minutes, the drunk sailors disappeared. 

I didn’t think any more about it until I went outside. There I found the sailors in the bushes, with two Marines from my new unit standing over them. They didn’t know me – I wasn’t even a real Marine yet. But they recognized me from the drill and considered me their brother. So they decided to teach the “swabbies” some manners. I thanked them and left to enjoy the pizza with my girlfriend and her parents. 

Another bond is the shared mission. I’ll let an Army Colonel explain it:
“In the Marines, everyone – sergeant, mechanic, cannoneer, supply man, clerk, aviator, or cook – is a rifleman first. The entire Marine Corps is all infantry. All speak the language of the rifle and bayonet, of muddy boots and long, hot marches. It’s never us and them, only us. That is the secret of the Corps.”
Col. Daniel F. Bolger, US Army 

When I preach on evangelism, I often use the example of the Marine rifleman. Just as every Marine’s primary job is infantryman, in the church every believer’s first job is evangelism. Whatever your other ministry is, your first job is to win souls. When I use the example of the Marine Corps, people get it, because everyone understands that a Marine is first and foremost a warrior. 

Another reason for the Marine Corps Spirit is the title itself – and the way it is earned. Tom Bartlett from Leatherneck Magazine explains:

“You earned the title ‘Marine’ upon graduation from boot camp. It wasn't willed to you; it isn't a gift. It is not a government subsidy. Few can claim the title; no one may take it away. It is yours forever.” 

Finally, I think one of the prime reasons – if not the prime reason – for the espirit de corps of the Marine Corps is our training. This is from a Marine’s mom… 

“When my son left home he had no motivation. He was lazy, slobby, he had no pride, and no sense of self-worth. This is the boy who got off the bus March 18th at Parris Island. The man that I met on Thursday for parents’ day is AWESOME. There is no way I can describe to you all the differences. He looks different, he walks different, he talks different, and he has such a sense of bearing and pride that all I could do was look at him in awe. Oh yes, the training is hard, what he went through is unimaginable to anyone that has not been there. They are definitely taught to be Warriors. Let me tell you the surprise of what else they are taught. My Marine son has better values, better morals, and better manners than anyone I know. It is so much more than "Yes, sir" and "Yes, ma’am." He cares about how he looks, he cares about what he does, and it’s not a boastful, bad-ass thing. He is a true gentleman. I saw patience and a calmness in him that I have never seen before. I could never express my gratitude enough to the Marine Corps for what they have given my son.” 

From the shores of Tripoli, fighting and defeating the Muslims, to the Pacific Islands during World War II, to the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, to Hue City in Vietnam, to Beirut, Lebanon, and Fallujah, Iraq, Marines continue to acquit themselves honorably on the field of battle. It has been so since the Marines were founded in 1775. 

The motto of the Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis, Latin for "Always Faithful," and usually abbreviated to Semper Fi. If you see two people exchanging that greeting, you are witnessing two Marines engaging in a time-honored tradition - even though one may be a young active-duty warrior, and the other may be old and stooped. If you see an individual offer that greeting to another, it is probably a civilian honoring someone he knows to be a Marine.

Our Corps is one of the most exclusive organizations in the world. Of every thousand Americans, less than one will ever earn the title Marine.

Marines are today’s knights. “In Medieval times Knights had to be loyal subjects first, competent warriors second, and chivalrous third, adhering to a strict code of conduct that governed their lives. Training to become a knight was arduous and tested the limits of a man’s strength and endurance.” What part of that description does not apply to a US Marine? Happy Birthday, Marines. God bless the Marine Corps, and God Bless the United States of America.  


An Army Officer Sums Up What Makes Marines Different

What Makes the Title “Marine” So Valuable?

The History and Heritage of the US Marine Corps

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Dr. Tom Barrett is a pastor, teacher, author, conference keynote speaker, professor, certified executive coach, and marketplace minister. His teaching and coaching have blessed both church and business leaders. He has been ordained for over 40 years, and has pastored in seven churches over that time. Today he “pastors pastors” as he oversees ordained and licensed ministers in Florida for his ministerial fellowship.

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