Though I was not a Marine, I had the distinct privilege of serving with them as a Navy FMF Hospital Corpsman. I signed up for a 4-year hitch in the Navy in January of 1966 and was discharged in January of 1970.
In those four years, I never saw a ship or sea duty, but I did spend almost three of those years with my Marine brothers.
I went from one military culture to another and wore that green and served Marines at Camp Lejeune in a sickbay with the 2nd Force Service Regiment (now called 2nd Marine Logistics Group), and fought alongside them in Vietnam with 3rd Recon Bn., 3rd Marines.
Forgive me, if you will, I can’t help it; I love my Marines.
This video was done for last year’s 245th birthday celebrations. It was done by the Commandant and the Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps, but the value of this particular video and presenting it at this time is in its identification of the central ideals and values of the United States Marine Corps. Those ideals and values are revealed through the words of four Marines, two of whom are Medal of Honor recipients (“Woody” Williams and Jim Capers, Jr), and the other two are Navy Cross recipients (James Stogner and Juan Rodriguez-Chavez).
Look, I know that these videos are a bit romanticized, and that Marines are people too, just like everybody else in the other services, but these values are a part of their training; they are a part of the mental and physical habits that are trained into them. And I have witnessed them lived out in their fullest sense when they are most needed. You will see what I mean in the brief accounts given by each of these Marines in the video. Yes, there is a level of myth to the Corps. But myths have always, throughout history, represented the highest ideals of a culture. And the mythic hero always acts out in accord with those ideals. The difference is that in real life, heroism, in general human experience, is seen rarely enough that it always stuns us. We recognize it when we see it. In our real human experience, real heroes are mere mortals, imperfect men and women. It is what real, not mythic, men and women do in the most trying of events that identifies them as heroes.
All men and women are capable of heroic action, but most are not called to it in daily life. Those who serve in the military are specifically trained into such heroic action both in mind and character and in physical skills. And yes, Marines have a tendency to brag a bit, but they have a history that lends itself to that too. Marines train, they fight, and they win. From the first day of boot camp they have heard and had the ideals of the Corps hammered into them, the ideals of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. They are trained in them daily, even if they are not aware of it. It gets into their memory, their muscles and their minds through the daily disciplines of their training. They really do come to believe those ideals together, in their unit cohesiveness. As in all things in life, you have to believe in order to act.
You will hear “Woody” Williams, who is now the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, speak of this when he talks about how he feels it is a privilege to be a Marine and to have been able to fight and defend “those values that can only be enjoyed by free people.”
You will hear it in Navy Cross recipient, James Stogner, when he says, “You find out what you got when you need it.”
They are both common folk, just part of the hoi polloi, but their training as Marines and their living out of that training “when it was needed,” makes them both heroes and Marines in the truest sense of those Corps’ values that they learned in boot camp. They modeled the Marine Corps ideals of faithfulness to the country, to the Corps and to themselves. They modeled the Corps values of patriotism, valor, duty, strength and discipline, when it was needed the most.
I had the lucky honor of serving with Marines in Vietnam and seeing these ideals lived out on the battlefield by everyone of them on a daily basis. All the hype is true to my experiences with the Corps as one of their “docs.”
The video for the 246th birthday will be coming out soon. Don’t be surprised if you see that one here too.
Honor, Courage, Commitment! We thank all who have served and who are now serving in the United States Marine Corps. Semper Fidelis!Whizzco