Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Marines

Happy 234th Birthday to the Marines

Earlier this year as I was filling up at the gas station I noticed a faded bumper sticker- vintage Bush 43-on the car next to me: “Dissent is Patriotic.” When I pointed to the bumper and asked the driver if she still believed that, she suggested I do something to myself which I am certain is physically impossible. I just laughed and said, “I’ll take that as a no.”

At the time, our Marine son and his men were deployed to a remote Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. As I reflected on my experience at the Shell station, I wondered if this woman had any idea the sacrifices so many had made so she could exercise her 1stAmendment rights during the previous administration or this one.

united-states-marine-corpsI wondered if she knew about Belleau Wood, the Chosin Reservoir, Hue City, Fallujah, or the Helmand Province? Was she aware that at Tarawa, 1,020 Marines were killed in the seventy-six hour battle? She may have seen the photo but did she know at Iwo Jima, the thirty-six day assault left more than 26,000 Americans wounded and 6,800 Marines dead? Did she have any clue as to the sacrifices others have made throughout this nation’s history so she could live free?

My wife and I recently spent a week on the Marine Corps base where our son is stationed. As we walked up and down the residential street where he and his family live we realized almost half of the homes had husbands deployed to a combat zone. The other half had spouses who recently returned or were about to leave. It was humbling to see parking lots with so many cars displaying Purple Heart license plates or seeing the injured frequenting the PX. Did the woman know about these recent sacrifices?

Last week while I was working out at the gym and wearing a Marine Corps t-shirt, a young man approached. I could tell he had sustained recent injuries. This twenty-five year old medically retired Marine Corps Staff Sergeant was wounded in Iraq and only recently was able to abandon the wheel chair. His knee was still so full of shrapnel he needed a total knee replacement. He will forever live with the scars on his face but his sacrifice was even more personal. His brother, a Marine, was killed five miles from where my new friend was injured. His younger brother just enlisted. I can’t imagine what his family has been through. Yet he was so proud of his brother who died and the one about to carry the title “Marine.” Did the woman at the gas station know my friend and his family?

In AMERICAN PATRIOT by Robert Coram, Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Bud Day is quoted as saying “It is not a widely known fact, but military people are weepers. They weep when they watch a parade and the flag goes by. They weep when they hear the National Anthem. They weep at tales of valor and sacrifice.” When I read that, a sense of relief washed over me. If maybe the most valiant man I ever met can weep then I guess it’s okay for me to admit shedding a tear. I’ve shot guys and never flinched but tales of valor and the sacrifices I have seen by my military heroes and their families choke me up every time. I wonder if the woman at Shell ever cries and if so, for whom or for what?

My vehicle has only one decal…a scarlet and gold U.S.M.C. on the rear window. I’ll often have someone pull up next to me at a light and nod knowingly. I only spent four years on active duty as a somewhat marginal Marine yet after a twenty-six year career in the FBI, many of those years undercover, I’m prouder to say I was a Marine than to say I was an FBI agent. Although only a small portion of my life was in the Corps, I am forever part of a brotherhood of warriors.

Today, November 10th, a date known by every Marine, marks the 234th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, a chance to remember all who served. Maybe you can say thanks in a tangible way this year by supporting the USO,Freedom Alliance, Iraq Star, Operation Gratitude, Hope for the Warriors, or any number of charities serving our servicemen and women who have earned our respect and admiration with their shed blood.

“When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit. For the Mission’s sake, our country’s sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division’s colors in past battles – who fought for life and never lost their nerve – carry out your mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world there is No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy than a U.S. Marine.”
Major General James N. Mattis. Commander, 1st Marine Division, March 30, 2003, on the eve of crossing into Iraq

Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fi!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Blog and thank you for your service. I have shared your blog with a few of my Marine friends.
You can check mine out at:

www.loganp61blackwidow.blogspot.com

Jill