Today is the 234th birthday of the Marine Corps, and it has me thinking about a friend of mine who comes from a Marine Corps family. I met him shortly after I came to the Ohio University campus in 2007 and we became pretty good friends throughout that school year. I got the chance to meet his dad, who served in the Marine Corps, during a Memorial Day Weekend camping trip with his family in 2008.
He was a big guy with a somewhat intimidating presence, the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley (or a bright alley, for that matter) if you had somehow ended up on his bad side. He also struck me as a no-nonsense kind of guy. No excuses. You succeed or you fail, and if you fail you pick yourself up again — but you don’t make excuses. You own your life, your triumphs and your mistakes, and you either work to better it or you don’t.
But it was also pretty clear that he was a good guy, a man with a deep sense of loyalty. That sense of loyalty was obvious by the way he interacted with his family and by the way they interacted with him. Here was a real father in an age when real fatherhood is rare, when men are so often inclined to cede their responsibilities to the mothers of their children, to the public educational system, and to other government programs. Not this guy. With him, you got the impression that he would be just as willing to die for his family as he was willing to die for his country as a Marine.
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For as long as I live, I think my friend’s father will shape the impression that I have of the Marine Corps. His commitment to personal responsibility and loyalty is also reflected in his children. My friend, his oldest son, is among the most loyal friends I have ever had. He even stays loyal to friends who may not deserve it. He likes to have a good time — one of the things we definitely have in common — but when your nose is to the grindstone and you need to lean on somebody for support, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better friend than he is.
Like a lot of others, my friend didn’t do so well in his freshman year of college and at least for now he’s decided that college isn’t for him. But he didn’t go home and cry about it, sulking in any mistakes he might have made while relying on his parents for support. He went home and went straight to work, and he worked hard. He became a supervisor at the restaurant he worked at, and now he’s moved on to a better job with better pay and greater opportunities for career advancement. I’m proud of him, and I’m sure his dad is proud of him too, because he took responsibility for his life and decided to make something out of it.
That’s who the Marines are to me. They’re the ones on the front lines because they know that somebody has to be responsible for defending our country, and they’re willing to take on that great responsibility. They take on that responsibility because they have an abiding loyalty to their friends, their families, their freedom, their country, and their God.
Responsibility and loyalty are the two qualities that I have seen in the only Marine Corps family that I know. It just so happens that responsibility and loyalty are two values sorely lacking in our culture today. Look at the banks, disloyal to their customers and to the national economy but taking no responsibility for their actions. Instead they want bailouts. Meanwhile the government spends us toward the real possibility of bankruptcy, all in the name of taking responsibility where others in the private sector should. The list goes on and on. Irresponsibility and disloyalty permeate every aspect of our culture.
234 years later, maybe all of us can learn something from the Marine Corps. Maybe we can learn from them what America is really supposed to be about.
What about you? What experiences have you had with the Marine Corps that have shaped your perspective on their service and your views on what America means through the eyes of a Marine? Cassandra at Villainous Company has a breathtaking perspective from a Marine wife. Go read the whole thing. If you know a Marine or someone with a loved one in the Marine Corps, be sure to thank them for their service and dedication to our country today.
Cross-posted to my personal blog: Nate, Uncensored.