A hero is someone who willingly puts themselves in harms way to save another. I re-watched Saving Private Ryan recently, and as that unforgettable sequence that so realistically put you in the frontlines of the carnage of the D-Day Invasion, I was deeply moved. It's nothing shy of amazing that so many Americans were willing to traverse the world to confront the most determined and devastating threat to peace the modern world had ever seen; that they were willing to literally run TOWARD an army shooting at them, all to put an end to a war in Europe that had directly affected very few Americans.
While the soldiers that stormed the beaches of Normandy were of every race and creed, each stitches in the limitless tapestry of the American flag, they all had one thing in common: they were Marines.
A retired Marine I have a lot of respect for just told me that tomorrow they're celebrating the Marine Corp's birthday, which is said to be November 10th, 1775. I'm pretty sure that's just one of those crazy things Marines declare and no one has the balls to call them out on, but regardless of the actual year, what is not up for debate is whether this particular wing of our Armed Forces is deserving of reverence. [Note: I googled it and it's actually true.]
While all branches of our military work in concert together, each bringing something unique and important to the mission, it's the Marines who pride themselves on being the “First ones in. Last ones out.” It's the Marines we send in when fearlessness is what's called for. And it's a Marine that, regardless of what degree of actual combat they see, willfully and knowingly agreed in advance to be the one you put at risk first. Unless tricked by a crafty recruiter, every Marine knew they were entering the most dangerous branch of the military, and to attain the level of acumen and determination required to be made a member of that crazy family, they all underwent rigorous training that would bend and break the mind of most civilians who are fortunate enough to never see combat.
These are absurd times we live in, but perhaps these times are necessary, as a precursor to positive steps that can and must be taken to move forward in the years to come. While under this administration we have come to predict the unpredictable, we must all be willing to retain our individual senses of virtue, as collectively those will retain the foundation of this country. I firmly believe that every salute needs to be earned, and I'm sorry to all the service members of every branch, active duty and retired, for the way you have been treated over the years. Oftentimes your needs are left unmet, you are broken in some way and expected to repair yourself in silence, and you struggle to put food on the table and a roof over your family's head. You don't deserve that.
You deserve everything you need, including hearing the words “thank you” from some of the people you'd never met, but were already willing to die for. To every Marine out there, thank you for your service, sacrifice, and bravery. I hope that you'll see more of the respect you deserve, from the top down. But I know that regardless, you'll continue to serve; because you don't become a hero by fuckin accident.
Happy Birthday. Thanks for ensuring all of us have more of our own. Semper Fi.