Open Letter to the United States Marine Corps
Before even trying to respond to your very moving words, you have touched in me a chord of emotion and passion so long silent, but which now I must give voice. As you know, I always try to see where we stand in the moving light that is called our history. This light does not exist solely to illuminate the deeds of men or even nations, but rather it is able to reveal the truth of their actions and intentions. Time is the best test of truth!
Also, as you again well know, I am a man of words. Words have a life of their own. They not only have meaning but power as well. Every human institution and endeavor that attempts to stand this litmus test of time and truth has, as its sole foundation, words. America is not a place, an institution, a group of people and buildings; rather, it is an idea that exists only as long as men can and will dare to dream that liberty, freedom, justice, and equality are possible.
Men are imperfect, and all things that they try to build are therefore imperfect as well. Only twice in human history have men had the ability to even come near to a perfect idea and then try with all of the courage, desire, and will they could muster to establish that idea in reality. Both of these attempts are somewhat related.
The first is Christianity, an attempt to free the soul of every man from the slavery of evil, sin, and guilt. Even this—the greatest that can be thought or attempted by man—exists only as an idea, for if but one generation was to forget this FAITH or not put it into practice, it would pass from existence.
The other is the United States of America. This, for the first time, was a serious attempt to establish and bring into existence a society based on the ideas of “PURE VIRTUE.” Men believed, for the first time, that freedom, liberty, justice, mercy, and equality would not be words only to be debated and defined in an academic context or restricted to philosophical or political debate; instead, these ideas would become real, present, and true.
As I said before, men are imperfect, and so this attempt at living these virtuous ideals was also an imperfect attempt. But therein lies its beauty. Only heaven is perfect, and by no means was America to be “Paradise on Earth.” On the contrary, it was meant to be an expression and an atmosphere where men of courage, wisdom, and grace could try to live and put into practice what they believed. This very attempt at living virtue and truth was to be, by its very nature, a threat to every human establishment or society that did not have as its foundation stone the virtues of freedom and equality.
Therefore since our very beginning, from the birth of the idea that is our nation, we were and still are the enemy of all other powers and institutions that seek to exist on the backs of its citizens rather than in their minds, hearts, and souls.
Here then forced upon us by history and the nature of men are two choices:
First, deny what we say we believe and be destroyed. And let the possibility of a nation based on virtue pass from the hearts and minds of men. Second, have the courage to protect and defend what we say we believe and to fight for our very survival if necessary, realizing that this fight will last as long as there is evil in this world and in the hearts of men who hate virtue.
Now the questions of how best to fight, who should protect these virtues, and who should be trusted with the existence and perpetuation of this our great dream? We would need men as virtuous as the dream itself. We would need men willing, at a moment’s notice, to rally to the call of liberty and freedom, with a commitment and fury unknown in human history. We would need men who could love without letting emotion rule their actions, fight with passion without a thought of personal cost or comfort. We would need men who understand that the true cost of freedom and liberty is their very lives. That to love America and what it stands for is to forever, in their lives, love all else a little less.
It is from this need to defend virtue, to defend this dream, that the idea of the United States Marine Corps was born. The MARINE CORPS is not the bully, strong-arm of American will in foreign policy. The MARINE CORPS does not exist to make a statement; it exists only to make a difference in the lives of people in this world who know and love freedom and liberty. This single fact of existence allows for no misunderstanding by our enemies as to our intent or purpose, and this is why we may never be loved by the rest of the world. But make no mistake, the UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS is and will always be RESPECTED by the rest of the world!
Contrary to what anyone else might think or say, a person does not JOIN the Marine Corps; rather, a person must BECOME a Marine! A person must be stripped of everything in their lives that they ever thought was important. A person must be stripped down to their very identity as a person and then be REBORN as a Marine. Many people will try and may even begin this process, but it is the MARINE CORPS alone that will decide if they are worthy of the uniform and title UNITED STATES MARINE.
To become a MARINE is to never again be a single person or stand alone. A MARINE is born into a new family unlike any that has ever existed or has ever been known or understood. A MARINE stands shoulder to shoulder in the corridors of history and looks from left to right and can see the long line of greatness that came before and will come after. A MARINE realizes that, no matter what he does that might seem as a great deed, it is only the greatness of the MARINE CORPS that truly matters. The Honor of the Corps is his honor. The Courage of the Corps is his courage. The Truth of the Corps is his truth. The MARINE CORPS values personal bravery but honors courage more. Courage is the ability to make your life’s actions always consistent with what you say you believe.
A MARINE knows that if he must raise his fist to defend this great nation that he loves, there stands beside him brothers with hands open to help him in his fight. He will never stand alone. If he should be called to pay the greatest price that this nation can demand – his life – his brothers will carry his body from the field of valor. He will be forever remembered for his deeds of honor, not in books or on monuments of stone but in the heart of every person that loves freedom and honor and who dares to try to follow him in the CORPS!
To be a MARINE is to know and understand that every person in this nation owes their very freedom to his sacrifice and training and that he neither requires nor demands any public show of thanks. To wear the uniform of the UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS surpasses any emotion that would be generated by poor attempts at gratitude of non-Marines!! What matters most is that another MARINE looks into his eyes and says in silence, “Well done brother!”
Most people will never know any of these feelings or emotions, because they haven’t got what it takes to serve our great nation as a member of the MARINE CORPS! So be proud, and if you are accused of being conceited, tell people that it is just detectable pride. Remember that it isn’t bragging if you can really do it! Remember to stay motivated always and, if you need a little reminder or help, simply look up at our flag. If that doesn’t re-motivate you, find another line of work, because the MARINE CORPS isn’t for you!!
Sorry for the long epistle, but I don’t know how to say what I feel about my Marine Corps in a few words; it has taken me the actions of a lifetime so far. I am very proud of you and have you in my prayers and thoughts always.
YOU WILL MAKE A GREAT MARINE!!
Love and Peace,
In Christ and the Corps,
O’Bryan USMC (Ret)