Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thoughts on being a Marine (on the 231st anniversary of the founding of the Corps)

I've been thinking a lot lately. In part, this is because Gary Paddock, my best friend from the Marine Corps, decided to re-enter my life recently, with all of the memories and might-have-beens that entails. Maybe it's also because the Marine Corps birthday just past. Or maybe it's just that I've been on the road a bit, and that usually means too much time in a Humvee with too little to do.

It's funny, the directions life takes you. Who would have thought on that muggy August evening in 1980 as I stepped off of the bus at Parris Island - scared and possessing all of the worldly wisdom of an 18-year old kid - that all these years later I'd be an Air Force Officer? Or especially, an Air Force officer serving with the Army in the middle of Baghdad? I was so proud of being a Marine. To me, becoming a Marine represented the first thing I'd truly accomplished on my own, my first real step towards independence. It wasn't until years later that I realized that the Marine Corps isn't about independence, it's about togetherness. It's about new beginnings, working together, and building a family, something I wasn't able to accomplish outside of the Corps for many years.

In the truest sense, being a Marine is a state of mind. Razor sharp creases and shiny belt buckles are merely the surface, a pale reflection of what the Marine stands for. The essence lies underneath; a combination of shared hardship, willingness to sacrifice, and a deep sense connectedness that I have yet to see anywhere else in the military or out. Connectedness with other Marines, with their sacrifices, and their achievements. And yes, also with their defeats. The Marine has huge shoes to fill, but he never has to fill them alone, for he is a member of the original band of brothers, one that transcends not only generations but history itself. Tarawa, Chosin, and Hue will never again be names in a history book to me - they are the places where my brothers bled and died. Active or reserve, retired or former Marine, shitbird or meritorious promotee - it doesn't matter. You either get it or you don't, and if you get it, it's with you for the rest of your life.

The Marine Corps Security Guard Detachment at the Baghdad Embassy held a nice ceremony yesterday marking the 231st birthday of the Corps. The Ambassador spoke, and many suit and tie Department of State types were in attendance. It was somewhat subdued, as is befitting a nation at war. The most touching part was when they played the Marine Corps Hymn on bagpipes - in fact, it probably brought most of us to tears. Except that Marines don’t cry, right?

Semper Fi, brothers.


Blogger KAB said...

I would have liked to have seen the ceremony at the Embassy. We had two military choppers pass over early yesterday morning and I couldn't help but think about you and everyone in Iraq who hear that all the time.

November 12, 2006 7:32 AM  
Blogger pbinkowski7142 said...

Major, Major

You are the most sensitive, courageous and honorable Marine and Air Force Major ever and that is not just from your mom, but probably everyone who knows you!

November 12, 2006 11:21 AM  
Blogger KAB said...

For the sake of Mark's manhood, I will second the courageous and honorable, but not the "sensitive".

November 12, 2006 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But you HAVE to feel that way, Mom.

And Kraig is right - HE'S the sensitive one.


November 13, 2006 12:13 AM  
Blogger lalavoie said...

The wife knows the sensitive side of the man as a Marine, as an Air Force Major, as a man and as a father.


November 13, 2006 12:47 PM  

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