by COLONEL DONALD J. MYERS USMC (Ret)
On 10 November, 2011 the Marine Corps celebrated its 236th birthday. Notice that the birthday is one year older than the country. The army also is older than the country. Could it possibly be that we would not be the United States of America if it had not been for our armed forces? The Marines have been an elite organization almost since its start. The Marine Hymn depicts the various areas that it has been engaged in since its start. From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli are part of the first stanza.
Too many years have passed to recall all of the various birthday celebrations that I have observed, but they cover many countries throughout the world. In the United States, the festivities were extensive, but overseas they were more reserved. As a graduate student at the University of Virginia, there were about twenty Marines working on a master degree and we held a celebration for the ages. We invited several of the professors and really did it up to the nth degree. We followed the normal routine for the birthday and totally impressed those in attendance. Most had little experience with the military especially the Marines. All of the Marines had served at least one tour in Vietnam and many had a chest full of medals.
At one portion of the celebration, I went into the bar and one of the people asked what was happening. I told him that we were celebrating the 138th birthday of the Marine Corps and he replied that that was older than the country. I responded that we are a country because of the military. Think about it. We have fought for our freedom in the revolutionary war, the war of 1812, World War I, and World War II. We have also fought fought in numerous other wars for what is right. In every case, the Marines have been at the front and added more legends to its legacy.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of commanding the Recruit Traing Regiment at Parris Island. It was quite a difference from being a recruit about 29 years before. What I learned in talking to the recruits was that they were looking for something that they had not found in the civilian environment. They wanted a direction and a cause. They hoped that they could find it in the Marines. In many cases, they found it. I believe the same is true today. Our youth want to be challenged and be led by leaders. Watch the advertisements for the Marines. They are challenging and state that they build leaders. The only thing that is promised is to be part of a super team.
As a young Marine, I became a corporal in a year and a sergeant a year later. As a result, I led other Marines and developed a style that with adjustments allowed me to lead a squad of twelve to a regiment of thousands. What a journey and what a thrill. Today, I still correspond with many troops and officers that I had the priveledge of leading. Nothing can surpass that thrill and responsibility. They will always be looked at as my sons or brothers. That is what it is to be a Marine.