Yes, it is that time of year again. Marines everywhere are poised to celebrate, though, truth be told, they have already been celebrating for a week or two in anticipation of this year’s birthday.
Marines who served in the past – from the oldest among them who still have breath to greet other Marines at reunions or on the street with a proud, “Semper Fi!” or to respond with a barked “OooRah!” to those who are more recent veterans of the post 9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – are ready to celebrate. Those who are new to the Corps, who have just earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (EGA) at the end of boot camp, at MCRD Pendleton or MCRD Parris Island, are ready to celebrate their first Marine Corps birthday as fully fledged Marines. All of these Marines have been steeped in the history, the traditions, and the countless stories of the Marine Corps heroes of the past. Some of them have added to that lore, history, and heroism while serving in the Corps. They are all ready to celebrate the 247th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
This year’s Marine Corps birthday message is wide-ranging and covers all elements of the Marine Corps’s missions, “in the air, on land and sea.” For its size, the Corps has always punched above its weight class. They have a well-earned reputation of always standing ready, indeed, of always being the first to fight.
That attitude is inculcated in every Marine’s mind from the day he or she steps on the yellow footprints in the first moments of their arrival at boot camp and remains a part of their sense of themselves throughout their active duty time in the Corps and, yes, for the rest of their years on this earth.
The Marine Corps ethic runs through every rank and MOS of the Corps. In recent times, one who modeled that ethic most clearly was the “warrior scholar” General James Mattis, known affectionately by his Marines as “Mad Dog” because he is a real example of an Alpha male, Devil Dog Marine. He makes a brief but memorable appearance early on in the video. He is asked by an interviewer, “What keeps you awake at night?” To which Gen. Mattis responds with typical Marine Corps simplicity, clarity, and confidence, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night.”
It isn’t bragging when you follow it up with actions, and he had a reputation to go with those words. He was bred and brought up in the Corps and modeled that unique sense of confidence that Marines from the PFC to the General all have.
You hear the term “warrior spirit” often. The Marines Corps, as a service, really has this spirit and always has had it. It really is bred into them from boot camp on. Their sense of themselves is as members of a unit. Every part of their early training is related to the idea of unit cohesion. It is in their DNA to “have each other’s six.” That intangible “warrior spirit” makes them see themselves as responsible to the Marine on their left and the Marine on their right, and this came from all those who went before them and emanates out to all who will come after them.
I know, I know, that sounds like Marine Corps bravado and braggadocio, but it is precisely that kind of absolute confidence that is bred into every Marine. It is that confidence that carried them forward at Belleau Wood in WWI where they fought with such determination and fierceness that the German troops they were up against gave them the nickname “Tueffel hunden” or “Devil Dogs” for the first time. It is a title that Marines wear with pride to this day. That Marine confidence carried them up onto the beaches at Iwo Jima and through the street-to-street, house-to-house fight at Hue in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and through the lanes and alleys of Ramadi in Iraq. It really isn’t just words. It is who they are, who they’ve been trained to be. They live the very definition of “esprit de corps.” It is not that other military units, like the Navy Seals or the Army Rangers, don’t have this same esprit de corps; it’s that every Marine has this this sense of him or herself as a member of The Corps. That is why they mouth phrases like, “Every Marine is a rifleman” or “Once a Marine, always a Marine” and mean it.
This became part of my own experience over 50 years ago when I was transferred from the United States Navy Hospital Corps to being a Fleet Marine Corpsman. We Corpsmen have a unique perspective of this Marine esprit de corps. We are all “adopted Marines” in a very real sense. They took us in and made us brothers with them, especially those of us who fought alongside them in combat. In truth, though we are Navy, we proudly identify as Marines, even though we don’t wear that precious and hard-won EGA. We have seen and benefited from that unique brotherhood that is the United States Marine Corps. Being adopted Marines, we Corpsmen take as much pride as our Marine brothers and sisters in celebrating the Marine Corps birthday on November 10th every year.
To all Marines, past and present, we thank you for your service to the nation over the 247 years of your history, from that unique beginning at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia on November 10, 1775, to the ever-present realities of today. We know that, as Marines, you remain Semper Fidelis to each other and to the nation you serve. OooRah!Whizzco