How many times have we been asked, “What is it about you Marines?”
This may help explain what we share that is so special and what we have lived that makes us remember. To understand, you have to live our experience, share what we have all shared, and feel what we have all felt. It is about Corps values, and honor. It is about character. It is about a shared experience that changed our lives.
The common experience starts with DISORIENTATION. The Corps creates a vacuum in your life. It takes away your hair, clothes, and friends, and fills it with a drill instructor. He says things like get off MY bus … do it NOW and as you stand asshole to belly-button on the yellow footprints, your identity disappears. The D.I. gives you a short lesson on the UCMJ, and you learn that rights belong to the institution, not to the individual.
You will live in a squad bay and you will march everywhere. He speaks to you in the future imperative … he says. YOU WILL … and you do! He gives you a new language … deck, hatch, head. It is a language that is steeped in a tradition you don’t understand yet. He takes away your right to speak in the first person, and he takes away your first name. Your platoon number is what’s important now.
Before your first meal you get 20 seconds to stow your gear, and you learn that the only way to get it done within the time limit is to help one another… The TRANSFORMATION begins. This is the culture of the Group, and its members are anonymous.
Although you don’t know it, your drill instructor will become the most important person you will ever meet, and your weeks of boot camp will become the defining cultural experience of your life. For the first time in your life you encounter absolute standards of right and wrong, success and failure. When you screw up, everyone stops, and they penalize you, immediately, so you won’t forget.
Disorientation and Transformation are followed by TRAINING.
The rules are simple:
a. Tell the truth
b. Always do your best no matter how trivial the task
c. Choose the difficult right over the easy wrong
d. Don’t whine or make excuses
e. Judge others by their actions
And above all, look out for the group, before you look out for yourself. During your training you are pushed beyond your limits, and you achieve. You learn to make excellence a habit. The common denominator among you and your fellow recruits is pride and accomplishment. Through your training you develop spirit, and you develop self-discipline.
You learn the ingredients of CHARACTER: Integrity, Selflessness, and Moral Courage. And you learn the Corps Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
Once you can appreciate what you are about to become, you learn about those who have gone before you. You study our history, and learn the lessons of countless heroes who acted, not for self, but for comrade, Corps, and Country. Marines are about taking care of each other, always have been, always will. It is our culture and it holds us together. As you learn the history, you become part of the tradition. You have a new appreciation of your God, your Country, and your Corps.
One final element completes your training – you become a rifleman.
The magnitude of what you have accomplished becomes apparent to you at graduation, when you finally earn your title and are called Marine.
What you know then, in your heart, but what you can’t put into words, is that there is something very special about this organization that is unlike any other organization you ever have been a part of. What you can’t put into words, but what you know in your heart is that the essence of the Marine Corps resides with the lowest in rank; The Marine is the Corps, and the Corps is the Marine. … Your uniform says it all. When someone looks at you they don’t see the name of your ship, a unit patch, or a branch insignia … what they see is a MARINE. That’s all that counts! You are a Marine! It is what matters to you, and it is what matters to every other Marine. You know that you may never feel this important again, and you will spend the rest of our life living the code, and holding on to the feeling that every Marine is a rifleman and that’s the essence.
But there is more to our story than our boot camp experience. There is our experience of sacrifice and our participation in the history & tradition of the Corps. We share stories and tell of the humor that got us through the tough times, but we also have stories we keep to ourselves, hiding the painful memories too personal to share.
Shared experience and personal sacrifice are reasons the Marine Corps is a Band of Brothers. It is the reason we celebrate today. The feeling you have when you become a Marine lasts a lifetime. Whether you serve 3 years, or 30, your experiences will never be forgotten. You will never work as closely, or depend on others more, than you did in the Corps. The Corps is your family, you can never leave, and you are always welcome back. You are EXPECTED to come back!
This shared experience, and personal sacrifice is our common bond. It is why we love each other and our country so much, and why we cling to our traditions. Our celebration preserves and honors the memory of all who have gone before us and it is an example, and a standard, for all who follow. In a time when there are so few proud and good examples to follow, when so little seems to count, our views, our beliefs, our PRACTICE of our tradition is, by others standards, EXTREME. We are perhaps all our country has left to guarantee that the principles upon which this nation was founded will survive.
Many presidents, and congressmen, have tried to do away with the Marine Corps, but we are still here. Why? The answer is simple – America doesn’t need a Marine Corps, America WANTS one! Marine, you are the reason she feels that way. Remember that, and feel good about it.
“It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men.”
Attributed to Capt. Gerry Porthier