Happy Birthday Marines

[Note: I left active-duty seven months ago, but in honor of Veterans’ Day and the 230th birthday of the Marine Corps I wanted to share a story about why I love being a Marine.]
valor.jpgDuring the late ‘90s I served a three year sting on recruiting duty in Olympia, WA. The long hours and tedium of dealing with teenagers was wearing me down so on a rainy October day my partner and I decided to take a trip out to Evergreen State College. Our area of Washington wasn’t exactly friendly to recruiters but that particular school had a reputation for being so unwelcoming that it was rumored that no one from our office had visited in the past ten years.
Evergreen, considered one of the most liberal schools in the country, prided itself on being one of the first schools to hold protest against the first Gulf War. The only thing that we shared in common was that our organizations both had latin mottos. (For the Corps: Semper Fidelis, “always faithful”; for the Greeners: Omnia Extares, a latinization of the sixties catchphrase “let it all hang out.”) As we stepped on campus in our dress blue uniforms we prepared ourselves for what was sure to be an interesting visit.
When we arrived, though, we were disappointed by our reception. No spontaneous protests broke out, no one called us names, no confrontations with patchouli wearing hippie chicks. Instead, we received a cool reception. Stares and smirks and polite bemusement, but no one went out of their way to be rude or unkind. They simply ignored us, figuring that we would soon just go away without a fuss.
We walked over to the student union, ordered some lunch and sat at a corner table by ourselves. Most of the students did their best to avoid making eye contact but one young girl, dressed in Birkenstocks and sporting white-girl dreadlocks, walked up to us and smiled.
“Are you two Canadian Mounties?” she asked. I smiled, thinking that she was making fun of our uniforms. Then I realized she was serious. “Um no,“ I said, “We’re U.S. Marines.“
“Oh,” she said, looking puzzled. “So what do Marines do?&#148

I invited her to join us and we talked for several minutes. She was a junior who grew up in Aberdeen, the hometown of Kurt Cobain. Her lack of understanding about the military turned out to be genuine; she had truly never been exposed to Marines before.
As we returned to the office, my buddy was fuming. He couldn’t believe that anyone could make it to college without having even the most basic knowledge of the military. While I agreed that it reflected poorly on the educational system, it had a surprisingly different affect on me: I couldn’t remember ever being more proud to be a Marine.
I served my country because I love freedom. I love it so much that I was willing to sacrifice some of my own freedom, or even my life if necessary, to secure it for myself and my nation. The young girl had the luxury of being uninformed about the military because my fellow Marines had bought that liberty for her. For 230 years, Marines had paid the cost to allow her to have the freedom to think – or not think – as she chooses.
We often say that freedom can only truly be appreciated when it’s taken away. While that may be true, I believe that freedom can only be enjoyed when it can be taken for granted. When we have to concentrate on each breath, we cannot enjoy our health. When a country’s citizens have to remain constantly vigilant, they cannot enjoy liberty.
After 9/11, we lost much of our innocence and it’s unlikely you’ll find college students, even at Evergreen, who are unaware of the Marines. But it has been four years since the terrorists attacked us on our own soil; time enough to allow us to relax our guard, if only slightly. We haven’t won the war on terrorism yet, and we have many battles ahead — including years of hard work in Iraq. But we should all take pride in the men and women of our military whose constant vigilance keeps the enemies outside our gates.
Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Veteran’s Day. On their way to the lake and the cookouts a few of our fellow countrymen will remember to shake our hands and thank us for our service. While I’ll appreciate the generous sentiment what I really want is to see the day when they can take us for granted again.
Because there are Marines, I know that day will come.
Semper Fi and Happy Birthday, Marines.
[About the photo: Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James embraces Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. during a Veterans Day commemoration in Dallas. Graunke, a member of a Marine ordnance-disposal team, lost a hand, leg, and eye while defusing a bomb in Iraq in July of 2003. (Photo by Jim Mahoney/Dallas Morning News) A poignant reminder that for some people, every day is veterans’ day.]

Published by

Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Hi Joe,
    Some of my in-laws live a few miles down the road from Evergreen. Set among the towering evergreens, it’s a beatiful campus, but the intellectual atmosphere is still as rarified as it was a decade ago.
    Evergreen was the home of the activist Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie lent her support to Palestinian militants and was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, the Gaza Strip, in March 2003.
    I don’t think the marines would have been afraid of being unwelcome there. They were probably just afraid of wasting their time.
    Semper Fi, Mr. Carter.

  • http://eternalperspectives.com/ Mike

    Thanks, Joe, for serving; thanks to all those who served and (especially) died for those of us who couldn’t serve: we wouldn’t be here without your sacrifice.
    1969 Lottery #16
    Classification: 4-F
    Sense of Guilt: palpable
    Sense of Indebtedness: incalculable

  • http://tammisworld.com Tammi

    “We’re the U.S. Marines”
    ..and for that we are ever grateful.
    Happy Birthday Marines!

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I served my country because I love freedom. I love it so much that I was willing to sacrifice some of my own freedom, or even my life if necessary, to secure it for myself and my nation. The young girl had the luxury of being uninformed about the military because my fellow Marines had bought that liberty for her. For 230 years, Marines had paid the cost to allow her to have the freedom to think – or not think – as she chooses.
    I can believe just about anything but it is interesting to reflect on the fact that the Founders did not envision the US with a standing peacetime army. Armies were something to call up when war was necessary and then disband and go home. A standing army was only necessary for a tyrannical gov’t that wanted to conquer or terrorize others or its citizens. Even today you can still find some cranks who think a standing army is the root of all the US’s problems (and they are often more on the right than left!)
    Of course the reality is that a standing army is pretty much impossible to avoid in modern civilization . Anyway Happy Birthday Marines from me as well.

  • http://www.theodoresworld.net/ Wild Thing

    Happy 230th Birthday Marine and thank you for serving our country. Thank you too for being a part of why this is the land of the free.

  • http://barbette.blogspot.com Barb

    Great post .. Happy Birthday, Joe!! Thank you and every other Marine for your service.
    Semper Fidelis!

  • http://beerbrains.com That 1 Guy

    Great post!
    Happy Birthday, and Semper Fi, Marine!

  • http://www.ov.mu.nu Ogre

    It was the uniform, Joe!
    Semper Fi!

  • http://johncoleman.typepad.com John

    Happy birthday, Marines. Thank you.

  • http://heeds.blogspot.com H

    wow. we live pretty close to evergreen, i can’t imagine seeing marines in uniform there. that’s a pretty neat story. :) good post!

  • http://www.fpcjackson.org Ligon Duncan

    Dear Mr. Carter:
    I don’t know how I’ve missed that you are a Marine. But thanks for this. I grew up in Greenville, SC and have made many a pilgrimage to Paris Island.
    My Dad was a WW2 Pacific Theater Marine corporal

  • http://jimgilbertatlarge.blogspot.com/ Jim Gilbert

    Happy Birthday to the proud and brave U.S. Marines. Thanks Joe, for serving, and for preserving the freedom. May your trolls be silent today.

  • Tim

    The founders for the most part did not envision a peacetime army because they (as states) did not want to fund it or any part of a federal government. It was very difficult for the federal government to have any money for spending let alone a military. It was felt that the states can defend themselves or at least have militias that joined together in time of war.
    Despite this, John Adams (a great president) was able to build up a Navy that allowed us to win passage through the Mediterranean and insured the survival of our country during the War of 1812. If it wasn’t for the navy at that time, we would not be the United States.
    Thank you US Marines!

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Speaking of standing armies, I’ve been on a Roman kick since the HBO started their new series, Rome. From what I’ve been reading it seems that Rome didn’t even bother funding an army in war time. Armies would be created by very rich people (who would lead them as generals in order to earn fame and fortune) or they would be funded by plunder. I’m sure there are exceptions where armies were funded with tax dollars from the Romans (such a big subject)…but I found that interesting..

  • Rob Ryan

    Happy Birthday Marines!
    I am not surprised by your anecdote about the innocent young lady. It could have happened on any campus other than a military school, I suspect. Our youth are woefully ignorant in many ways, and our security and high standard of living has much to do with that lamentable fact. I doubt most of my students could find either “the Halls of Montezuma” or”the shores of Tripoli” on a globe.
    However, judging from the enthusiastic reception given some alumni veterans at a Veteran’s Day assembly yesterday afternoon, their ignorance does not manifest itself in a lack of appreciation for the contributions of our armed forces past and present. I have never witnessed a more solemn ceremony nor a more grateful applause as that that followed every speaker and patriotic song in the program. There are moments and feelings that unite us Americans regardless of age, politics, and worldview.

  • http://www.anarchocatholic.typepad.com Casey Khan

    Everybody’s heard this quote:
    “It is the Soldier not the reporter, who has given us Freedom of the press. It is the Soldier not the poet, who has given us Freedom of speech. It is the Soldier not the campus organizer, who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate. It is the Soldier not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier, who salutes the Flag, who serves beneath the Flag and whose coffin is draped by the Flag, who allows the protester to burn the Flag.”
    Here is my refutation of such nonsense.
    “It is God, not the soldier Who has given us the freedom of speech. It is God, not the soldier Who has given us the right to demonstrate. It is God, not the soldier Who has given us the right to due process. It is God the Father, Who has given us the Commandments, Who forgives us for breaking the Commandments.”
    Happy Birthday
    Semper Fidelis
    But no thank you.
    CPL. Khan

  • Don

    We call it Remembrance Day up here in the Great White North. In Canada, many companies have made Remembrance Day a “floating holiday”, typically taking a day off in the summer time instead, which I disagree with. I have no basis in my life for imagining what it must feel like to risk one

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    Thank you for your honorable service, Joe. Freedom is truly precious.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick (Gryph)

    For 230 years, Marines had paid the cost to allow her to have the freedom to think – or not think – as she chooses.

    Joe, I think that has you allude, the girls ignorance was due to the hard work of the Marines that came before you, your parents and grandparents generation.
    So today I’ll thank them. I’ll thank you, along with my Father, (Army) tomorrow. ;-) Happy Birthday Marines!
    BTW, there is a Marine profiled on my site today that maybe you should think about.

  • Tim Roeder

    It has been many years since I served, but I’m always appreciative of anyone who reminds me of my time spent in the Corps.
    Semper Fi, and Happy Birthday to you.

  • Jorge Perez

    Semper Fi and God Bless all Marines past,present, and future.
    Jorge Perez

  • anonymous

    Jesus disapproves of killing.

  • http://financialrounds.blogspot.com The Unknown Professor

    Happy Birthday:
    The USMC represents much of the what’s best about our military. It also provides a concrete example of much of the best of the “masculine” culture – it embodies many of what were seen as the “hard” virtures – fidelity, bravery, honor, etc…
    Long may your flag wave.

  • http://alpinesummit.blogspot.com quicksilver

    Just to let you all know how much I appreciate what you have done/are doing for this country. FYI, I included this post on my link round-up for veteran’s day on my blog here.

  • http://www.melodee128.blogspot.com Mel

    Terrific post!

  • Mir

    Thanks for your service to our nation. Your wonderful photo of the Pearl Harbor Vet with the younger disabled Vet had me weeping. And profoundly grateful.
    I think it behooves us all to go make a donation to a worthy Veteran’s charity today. To say, “Thanks” a bit more tangibly
    And to Mr. “Jesus Disapproves of killing”, clearly he has missed all the God-approved warrior work that the Bible depicts, and the warrior-work that Jesus will accomplish to fulfill the prophecies in Zechariah and Revelation, etc. Killing is not always murder, Sir. Killing is sometimes justice, sometimes self-defense, sometimes punishment for evil, sometimes absolutely required. Get a clue.

  • leeann

    God bless all our Marines! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

  • Jo Anne

    My son was the “delight” of a recruiter’s heart. He couldn’t wait. He prepared for two years before graduating. However, the real life Marine Life was not what he expected…. DuH??? Now married, serving in ministry, and Thank You, Jesus! for growing him up with a purpose, he is soooo grateful for the time and the priviledge!! of being a Marine and serving his Country.
    As the Mother and Wife of two who served, what a wonderful Day and God Bless you all.

  • Gordon Mullings

    Thanks for serving in that thin line that stands between civilisation and the neo-barbarians of today.
    A happy belated birthday to the US Marines, too.
    Out here in the Caribbean; today is Remembrance Sunday, the sunday after Nov. 11, the anniversary of the Armistice at the end of the Great War [1914 – 18]: it came to an end the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour — ever since noted as a warning. I recall looking at cenotaphs listing war dead, in Jamaica, Barbados (my High School there had its own Cenotaph with a considerable list of dead from te two World Wars), and here in Montserrat.
    I guess I should [in light of Anonymous’ comment] make a brief note on the subject of “killing,” from Rom 13; to help clarify the Biblical Christian position on the matter:

    Rom 13: 3 . . . rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
    RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    In short, the ruler is God’s agent of Justice [his principal duty and qualification], and so bears the sword as deterrent, means of defense of the community, and instrument of punishment. That of course does not excuse despotic tyranny that turns to murder — the unjust taking of innocent life — as an instrument of state power: whether of one’s own citizens or through aggression and conquest. [NB: “Kill” in the Elizabethan English fo the KJV, denotes what we today term, murder; they used “slay” as we use “kill.” I cannot but observe here that the unborn are the most innocent of us all.]
    Notice too, that it is precisely in that context, that the Apostle speaks to the legitimate taxing power of the state: taxation to support law enforcement, justice generally and defense is the classic context for legitimate taxation. [By sharpest contrast, indulging in wars of conquest funded by the hope or actuality of loot becomes doubly illegitimate: unjust intentional taking of innocent life is murder, and the use of force or fraud to seize that which one has no just claim to is theft.]
    Hope that helps clarify.

  • http://www.j-dogblog.blogspot.com J-Dog

    Rock on with your bad selves!

  • http://www.sarahorn.com Sara Horn

    Thanks for your post. Very moving and very needed in today’s climate.
    God bless!