Happy Birthday, Marines!

Tomorrow, November 10, is the 232nd birthday of the US Marine Corps. The Marines can be a mystery to those of us who weren’t raised in the military culture.  We know from our history books that they are an elite group, something different from other soldiers. But what really makes them different? 

In celebration of the Marines, HUMAN EVENTS asked a few Marines to describe the difference in their own words.     

I felt proud just speaking with Colonel H.C. “Barney” Barnum, Jr., a retired Marine, now Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Col. Barnum received the Medal of Honor for valor in combat in Vietnam.  He sounded just as I suspected an older Marine would — direct, convinced and matter of fact.

“Once a Marine always a Marine,” he said. “You earn the title…you join the Army you join the Air Force, you join the Navy — but you earn the title of a United States Marine.”

Barnum has been deployed around the world.  He likens the Marines to a “band of brothers” that take care of each other no matter the circumstance.

Of the Marines I’ve met, most were drawn to the Corps as children by the influence of a parent or in response to the awe-inspiring Marine that crossed their path. None doubted they would select the Marines over another branch of service.

For Brigadier General Thomas V. Draude, the calling came at about the age of three when he spotted a uniformed man. Draude’s father, a German immigrant he describes as “very patriotic,” told him, “This man is a Marine and that is the best there is.” Draude carried the endorsement in his mind for years and said as he learned more about the Marines, it enforced his belief that he would not be happy until he became a Marine.

“The proudest day of my life was the day I was sworn in as a Marine,” he said. It seems much the same for many.

Col. Barnum was hooked on career day his senior year of high school. As each of the military services presented their case, students made a racket, but the only service recruiter who demanded respect was the Marine.

“The Navy got up, the Air Force got up and Army guys got up — and the students hooted and hollered…and then this Marine gunny got up and said, ‘there’s no one in this room that I want to be in my Marine corps…you’re unmotivated and undisciplined,’” said Barnum. “Then he began to chew out the faculty for not takin’ control of the students…well I figured that’s the type of guy I wanted to be.”

That was 1958.  And the Marine Corps prides itself on values unchanged over the years. Honor, courage and commitment are the fundamental principles of the Corps and today’s Marines serve with the same valor as those from two centuries ago.

Twenty-five-year old Sergeant Nicholas D. Morrison served in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005-06. Morrison said he chose the Marines for “the challenge and honor of serving with the best.”

He called the Marines the “United States’ ‘911 force’” because they have been, throughout our history, the force that goes into action first in almost every crisis.  They are first in on the front lines and often suffer the most casualties.

Morrison said the situation in Iraq is often not as the media portrays it.

“I can’t tell you how many Iraqis came to me to thank us for ridding  the country of Saddam Hussein…probably 90%,” he said, adding that the media fails to produce stories of the progress being made such as the schools, bridges and medical facility his unit built in Fallujah.

Col. Barnum dislikes the media’s “deplorable” coverage of the war, saying reporters will “look until they find something that’s going to be detrimental and mention it.”

Barnum visited with Marines in Iraq earlier this year. “I went to thank them first of all as a grateful American, and second of all as a fellow Marine combat warrior — and let them know we’re proud of what they’re doing,” he said.  Barnum added that the morale of the troops he spoke with was very high.

Though all three men are no longer on active duty, each conveyed that being a Marine will forever remain a part of their identity. Morrison maintained that “A Marine that is out of service is called a ‘former Marine’ — never an ‘ex-Marine’.”

“Marine will be part of your biography, your resume, your obituary…” said Draude, who
noted that the War on Terror “has a place for all of us” and a Marine’s “ability to react, deploy quickly, be in a constant state of readiness…to adapt and adjust” sets them apart.

“Marines never give up on the mission nor do they give up on their people,” said Draude. “One of our hallmarks is, you never leave a dead or wounded Marine behind…it truly is that band of brothers that is so special.”

Barnum said much the same thing: “Marines can always count on the Marine on their left and on their right and the one in front of them and the one behind them so they train that way and when they have to execute a mission, they can rely on that Marine team.”

These men gave voice to the fierce pride and undying loyalty to the Corps — qualities that have remained cornerstones in defining a Marine for more than two centuries. On the 232nd anniversary of this extraordinary service, American Marines around the globe continue to live by their creed of honor, courage and commitment,  in the War on Terror and in their daily lives.

“We pride ourselves on the battles we have both won and lost and remember those who fought before us,” said Morrison. “I feel that many of the skills and morals I have learned in the Marines carry over into civilian life and my service is still needed.”

Happy Birthday, Marines.