The last word, (and I couldn't have said it any better)

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by Broderick, Nov 19, 2002.

  1. Broderick

    Broderick New Member

    Esprit de Corps
    By Daniel E. Sims
    GySgt, USMC (Ret.)

    Ask a Marine what's so special about the Marines and the answer would be
    "esprit de corps", an unhelpful French phrase that means exactly what it
    looks like - the spirit of the Corps. But what is that spirit, and where
    does it come from?
    The Marine Corps is the only branch of the U.S. armed forces that
    recruits people specifically to fight. The Army emphasizes personal development (an
    army of one), the Navy promises fun (let the journey begin), and the Air
    Force offers security (it's a great way of life). Missing from all of
    these advertisements is the hard fact that it is a soldier's lot to suffer and
    perhaps to die for his people, and to take lives at the risk of his own.
    Even the thematic music of the services reflects this evasion. The Army's
    Caisson Song describes a pleasant country outing over hill and dale, lacking only
    a picnic basket. Anchors Aweigh, the Navy's celebration of the joys of
    sailing, could have been penned by Jimmy Buffet. The Air Force song is a lyric poem
    of blue skies and engine thrust. All is joyful and invigorating, and safe.
    There are no landmines in the dales nor snipers behind the hills, no submarines
    or cruise missiles threaten the ocean jaunt, no bandits are lurking in the
    wild blue yonder.
    The Marines' Hymn, by contrast, is all combat. We fight our country's
    battles, first to fight for right and freedom, we have fought in every
    clime and place where we could take a gun, in many a strife we've fought for

    The choice is made clear. You may join the Army to go to adventure
    training, or join the Navy to go to Bangkok, or join the Air Force to go to computer
    school. You join the Marines to go to war.
    But the mere act of signing the enlistment contract confers no status in
    the Corps. The Army recruit is told from his first minute in uniform that
    "you're in the Army now, soldier". Navy and Air Force enlistees are sailors or
    airmen as soon as they get off the bus at the training center. The new arrival at
    Marine Corps boot camp is called recruit, or private, or worse (much
    worse), but not Marine. Not yet; maybe not ever. He or she must earn the right to
    claim the title, and failure returns you to civilian life without
    hesitation or ceremony.
    My recruit platoon, Platoon 2210 at San Diego, California, trained from
    October through December of 1968. In Vietnam the Marines were taking two
    hundred casualties a week, and the major rainy season operation, Meade
    River, had not even begun. Yet our drill instructors had no qualms about
    winnowing out almost a quarter of their 112 recruits, graduating eighty-one. Note
    that this was post- enlistment attrition; every one of those who were dropped
    had been passed by the recruiters as fit for service. But they failed the test
    of boot camp, not necessarily for physical reasons (at least two were
    outstanding high-school athletes for whom the calesthenics and running
    were child's play). The cause of their failure was not in the biceps nor the
    legs, but in the spirit. They had lacked the will to endure the mental and
    emotional strain, so they would not be Marines. Heavy commitments and high
    casulties notwithstanding, the Corps reserves the right to pick and
    But the war had touched boot camp in one way. The normal twelve-week
    course of training was shortened to eight weeks. Deprived of a third of their
    training time, our drill instructors hurried over, or dropped completely,
    those classes without direct relevance to Vietnam. Chemical warfare
    training was abandoned. Swimming classes shrank to a single familiarization
    session. Even hand-to-hand combat was skimped. Three things only remained
    inviolate: close order drill, the ultimate discipline builder; marksmanship training,
    the heart of combat effectiveness; and classes on the history, customs and
    traditions of the Corps.

    History classes in boot camp? Stop a soldier on the street and ask him to name a battle of World War One. Pick a sailor at random to describe the
    epic fight of the Bon Homme Richard. Everyone has heard of McGuire Air Force
    Base, so ask any airman who Major Thomas B. McGuire was, and why he is so
    commemorated. I am not carping, and there is no sneer in this criticism.
    All of the services have glorious traditions, but no one teaches the young
    soldier, sailor or airman what his uniform means and why he should be
    proud to wear it.
    But ask a Marine about World War One, and you will hear of the wheatfield
    at Belleau Wood and the courage of the Fourth Marine Brigade. Faced with an
    enemy of superior numbers entrenched in tangled forest undergrowth, the
    Marines received an order to attack that even the charitable cannot call
    ill-advised. It was insane. Artillery support was absent and air support
    hadn't been invented yet, so the Brigade charged German machine guns with
    only bayonets, grenades and indomitable fighting spirit. A bandy-legged little barrel of a gunnery sergeant, Daniel J. Daly, rallied his company
    with a shout. "Come on, you sons a bitches! Do you want to live forever?" He
    took out three of those machine guns himself, and they would have given him the
    Medal of Honor except for a technicality. He already had two of them.
    French liaison officers, hardened though they were by four years of trenchbound
    slaughter, were shocked as the Marines charged across the open wheatfield
    under a blazing sun and directly into enemy fire. Their action was so
    anachronistic on a twentieth-century battlefield that they might as well
    have been swinging cutlasses. But the enemy was only human; they couldn't stand
    up to this. So the Marines took Belleau Wood.
    Every Marine knows this story, and dozens more. We are taught them in
    boot camp as a regular part of the curriculum. Every Marine will always be
    taught them. You can learn to don a gas mask anytime, even on the plane en route
    to the war zone, but before you can wear the emblem and claim the title you
    must know of the Marines who made that emblem and title meaningful. So long as
    you can march and shoot and revere the legacy of the Corps, you can take your
    place in the line.
    And that line is unified in spirit as in purpose. A soldier wears branch
    of service insignia on his collar, and metal shoulder pins and cloth sleeve
    patches to identify his unit. Sailors wear a rating badge that identifies
    what they do for the Navy. Marines wear only the eagle, globe and anchor,
    together with personal ribbons and their cherished marksmanship badges.
    There is nothing on a Marine's uniform to indicate what he or she does, nor
    (except for the 5th and 6th Regiments who wear a French fourragere for Belleau
    Wood) what unit the Marine belongs to. You cannot tell by looking at a Marine
    whether you are seeing a truck driver, a computer programmer, or a machine
    gunner. The Corps explains this as a security measure to conceal the
    identity and location of units, but the Marines penchant for publicity makes that
    the least likely of explanations. No, the Marine is amorphous, even anonymous
    (we finally agreed to wear nametags only in 1992), by conscious design. Every
    Marine is a rifleman first and foremost, a Marine first, last and always.
    You may serve a four-year enlistment or even a twenty-year career without
    seeing action, but if the word is given you'll charge across that wheatfield.
    Whether a Marine has been schooled in automated supply, or automotive
    mechanics, or aviation electronics, is immaterial. Those things are
    secondary - the Corps does them because it must. The modern battle requires the
    technical appliances, and since the enemy has them, so do we. But no
    Marine boasts mastery of them. Our pride is in our marksmanship, our discipline,
    and our membership in a fraternity of courage and sacrifice.
    "For the honor of the fallen, for the glory of the dead", Edgar Guest
    wrote of Belleau Wood, "the living line of courage kept the faith and moved
    They are all gone now, those Marines who made a French farmer's little
    wheatfield into one of the most enduring of Marine Corps legends. Many of
    them did not survive the day, and eight long decades have claimed the
    But their action has made them immortal. The Corps remembers them and
    honors what they did, and so they live forever. Dan Daly's shouted challenge
    takes on its true meaning - if you hide in the trenches you may survive for now,
    but someday you will die and no one will care. If you charge the guns you
    day die in the next two minutes, but you will be one of the immortals. All
    Marines die, in the red flash of battle or the white cold of the nursing
    home. In the vigor of youth or the infirmity of age all will eventually
    die, but the Marine Corps lives on. Every Marine who ever lived is living
    still, in the Marines who claim the title today. It is that sense of belonging to
    something that will outlive your own mortality that gives people a light
    to live by and a flame to mark their passing.
    Marines call it esprit de corps !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Semper Fi,


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