Another year, another Marine Corps Birthday. As the years roll by, I am more grateful for having worn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.
Looking back, it was a crazy leap for me to sign up. What was I thinking? I had a cushy law job lined up at a big firm in Houston. But something was missing. I have talked before (last USMC Birthday, in fact) about the influence of my uncle. There was my dad, too, the squid who taught me to revere the Marines. I don't know. I just had to make the leap.
It's still the best professional decision I ever made. I can't even think of what is #2. It doesn't matter.
I will remind you again that I am no war hero. There are lots of new ones these days, in the USMC and our sister services. There are old ones who are still around, too. And I love every minute I get to interact with them. Heck, it's the best part of this blog gig for me. They all have my heartfelt thanks and deepest respect.
But I was just a Marine. That fact remains good enough for me.
The Corps stands on three pillars -- dedication, brotherhood, and tradition.
I learned early and often that the Corps is about dedication to God, Country, and Corps. Marines are not ashamed of these things. They talk openly of their affection for their God, their nation, and the USMC that serves it. They are throwbacks.
And although they may get into fraternal scrapes, Marines love each other unashamedly. The greatest fear that every Marine lives with is that he may let down his brother Marines.
I remember when we lived on base at Camp Pendleton. The sense of community at 216 Dolphin Drive is something that I cherish to this day. It was an amazing place where race, color, status, even faith didn't divide us. We were all just green any way. We were Marines and Marine family members. We Marines went and did our jobs on the base. Some deployed. And when we were home, we watched each others' homes, each others' kids, and we supported each other as the Gulf War came and went.
One of my neighbors, a Cobra pilot, crashed and was killed near Kuwait after Desert Storm ended. He was one of the finest men I have known. He left behind a young wife and child. I was haunted by wondering how such great men could die so young. The Marines have seen a lot of this, though. A few months later, another neighbor who was a Huey pilot, was also killed. Our court on Dolphin Drive mourned together. Still we understood: Marines took leaps then.
They continue to take them now.
That's part of the tradition, the history. Once one is imbued with the rich history of the USMC, a near-magical force propels the new Marine to defend and guard that tradition, and to uphold it at all costs, and even build upon it.
I used to joke that the "Old Corps" began on the day before you signed up. But we all knew we rode on the shoulders of those who went before. They paved the way. They made the history. They earned the grudging respect of the Germans and the moniker "Devil Dog" in WWI. They landed on Guadalcanal when WWII was in doubt. They raised the flag on Iwo and died a few days later. They slogged away in Viet Nam when much of the nation had forgotten what honor and duty were.
And tonight they will be patrolling and standing watch in Iraq ... when many in the nation again ponder things that Marines never question.
So, here's to the new generation of Marines, who are riding on the shoulders of those in the "Old Corps" who went before. You are doing the nation proud.
But I'd like to dedicate this post to the "Old Corps", to those who went before ... to those who answered the call when history was not yet made and when the country didn't appreciate your sacrifice. I will never forget.
Men like faithful reader and commenter-extraordinaire Mark showed the way. Thanks for the view and the perspective.
And I'd also like to thank those who love the Marine Corps and share the Marines' unrelenting commitment to the nation. Yes, this is the Marine Corps birthday, but the USMC belongs to America.
As I've said before, lots of nations have marines, but there is only one U.S. Marine Corps.