10 November. Today is the 232nd birthday of the Marine Corps. It’s the day when Marines throughout the world – both active service and former – will be attending celebrations and galas. Young Marines in their first set dress blues, accompanied by their equally young girl friends stuffed in their old high school prom dresses, will proudly rub elbows with the Captains, Majors, and other senior officers under whom they serve.
In many cases, being a Marine is a family tradition. There are many Birthday Balls where sons, fathers, uncles, and cousins attend en-masse – a family fire-team, or Arty Battery, if you like, and they’ll tell you, if asked, that becoming a Marine was one way of following in Dad’s footsteps. In many cases, becoming a Marine was something they’d wanted to be since they were little boys.
It’s hard to know what came first; the mystique of being a Marine, or the history and traditions that built the mystique; regardless, these Marines grabbed the concept and never let it go. Maybe they liked the way Dad carried himself, or maybe the stories of Tarawa, the Chosin Reservoir, or Hue City appealed to them down deep. But being a Marine was part of their essential nature; part of their essential reason for being.
There are some careers that come with their own lasting dignity: hard jobs, like steel worker, policeman – or Marine. Jobs where by the end of the day I-Beams have been produced, drug dealers arrested, or Iraqi cities are cleared of insurgents. Jobs where sweat – effort – blood is equally important to education.
It’s an unusual thing about these jobs; those who have them look at life in moral, instead of economic terms. These men tend to ignore income levels, job titles, and frequent flyer miles earned, and instead tend to rank other men in terms of who can provide for their families, or who has the courage to dash under fire out into the street to drag back a wounded buddy. You can spot them by the look in their eyes and the way that they carry themselves.
Somehow trading bonds, lobbying for a tax break, or being a lawyer just doesn’t have the same moral clarity of these jobs, which is why Marines can stand straighter and look you in the eye with far more confidence than someone from Wall Street or Washington DC.
When people around the world view America, they understand the moral certainty of hard work equaling success; that’s their definition of ‘The American Way.” It’s not just the opportunity to make money, its’ the ability to earn a living by hard work and determination - and to be a part of something larger than themselves - that that brings them here.
And that’s what brings us back to today; the 232nd Birthday of the Marine Corps, where being part of something larger than themselves, where hard work, sweat, brotherhood, and sacrifice are part of every day, and where terms like “Honor – Courage – Commitment” remain the way of life for “The Few – The Proud : The Marines.”