Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Not So Semper Fidelis

I spent four years on active duty as a U.S. Marine. They were four of the most difficult years of my life, but as is so often the case, I've found, they were also four of the most rewarding in retrospect. Call me a bit of a sucker, but I still get choked up when I hear Sousa marches, especially Semper Fidelis, affectionately known by Marines as "Six Bits". I still have quite a few friends in the Corps, and I think of them all the time, especially in these trying days. For over 225 years, the Marines have served with distinction and with honor, doing things others thought impossible, answering the call of their country without question. I've never been as proud to be a Marine as I am right now. The job they continue to do, whether or not one agrees with the mission they've been given, is one deserving of the highest respect and admiration.

The term Semper Fidelis is, itself, a bit of a trademark of the U.S. Marine Corps. I don't think anybody really knows when it started being used, but it is a term that is used with extreme pride by those of us proud to have earned the title Marine. It's Latin for "Always Faithful". We use it as a term of endearment and greeting to our brother and sister Marines. I always make sure to shake the hand of any Marine I meet, active or prior service. I look them directly in the eyes and say "Semper Fidelis".

It means a lot to me. It means that I would do almost anything to assist a fellow Marine in distress. It means that I would shudder at the thought of allowing a fellow Marine to suffer. And, perhaps most importantly, it carries with it a supreme responsibility. I strive to be worthy of my earned title of Marine at all times. I would feel an intense feeling of shame if I were to bring dishonor or bad reputation to the Marine Corps I love and respect so much, even after all these years.

There is another term we Marines use from time to time. It is "Once a Marine, Always a Marine". It's related to Semper Fidelis but is a bit different. It is a statement that once you have earned the title of Marine, nobody can ever take it away from you. Some old-timers even bristle if you ask them if they are an "ex-Marine" or a "former Marine". "Once a Marine, Always a Marine", they are likely to say, likely a bit perterbed.

It brings up an interesting question, though. Can a person willingly forfeit their Marine status through their actions? If a Marine comes out and speaks disparagingly of the Marine Corps, its members, its history, and so forth, wouldn't it be sort of understood that he or she no longer is being Semper Fidelis?

I find myself feeling ashamed of John Murtha in exactly this sense. His political career has led him to a point where he has chosen to libel Marines, accusing them of the most hideous forms of cruelty and most deviant war crimes imaginable, only to have those accused Marines be acquitted of all charges. He did this for the most despicable of reasons - cheap political points designed to benefit him directly. In short, he sold out. Never has Murtha recanted his hasty and now thoroughly discredited accusations. Never has he apologized. He apparently feels no sense of shame for dishonoring the title he himself once earned.

I don't know what the official stance of the Marine Corps is on this matter. I can only speak for myself. As a proud Marine who is horrified at the depths of depravity to which John Murtha has sunk, I find him to have displayed conduct that is unbecoming of any Marine.

I hereby renounce any ties between myself and John Murtha, and I strip him unilaterally of any rights or privileges that should attend his status as a Marine. I find him a despicable and thoroughly dishonorable human being. He is no longer faithful to us, and therefore, I shall henceforth no longer be faithful to him. He is no longer a Marine, as far as I'm concerned.

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