November 10th is the 243rd birthday of the United State Marine Corps. It is a time of celebration during which current and former Marines acknowledge the storied history and glorious traditions of the branch of the military in which they so proudly served. I, however, am torn.

As a former Marine Corps officer with service during the Vietnam War, I still occasionally admit to having been a Marine, perhaps also with a measure of pride, Yet, I have realized that this admission encompasses more than the pomp and pageantry that we celebrate each year on November 10th.

I realized what being a Marine actually entails, that as a young man I underwent, perhaps endured is better, a profound life-altering experience, Marine Boot Camp, during which everything I was, embraced, stood for, and held sacred, was brutally and methodically destroyed, with the resultant void filled with the values, “virtues,” and abilities appropriate to the role I was about to assume.

The Marine Corps builds men (and women), it is said, albeit of a specific sort. I have realized that much of this physical, emotional, psychological, and ethical conversion and conditioning process is intended to create effective instruments of death and destruction, killing machines who will do the bidding of our nation’s political and military leadership without hesitation or question.

I have realized that Marine training focuses on building an intense fraternity and camaraderie with others who wear the uniform. Anyone who has experienced the insanity of the battlefield understands that when the shit hits the fan, we kill and sacrifice not for god, flag, country, or even for Corps, but for the man or woman at our side.

I have realized that I and many others who claim the title of Marine have had our selflessness, dedication, and patriotism exploited; asked, better compelled, to make sacrifices fighting in wars that were (are) ill-conceived, unnecessary, unjust, and immoral. I have realized that as a Marine I was fighting not for freedom – ours, or in my case, the Vietnamese – a claim we hear so often, and that I was an aggressor, invader, and occupier fighting for corporate profit and national hegemony placed in an untenable survival situation of kill or be killed.

I have realized that by living according to the Marine ethos, I have become a murderer, a realization that has caused me (and many others) profound guilt, shame, and moral distress. For many of us, PTSD and Moral Injury have made recovery from war difficult, if not impossible, and death by one’s own hand, a viable alternative to living in war’s aftermath.

I know little of the life of Ian David Long, the latest of this nation’s plethora of mass shooters. What I do know is that he was a product of Marine training, imbued with the behaviors and values of a warrior, reinforced by the horrors of the battlefield, eventually to take the lives of twelve strangers, and then to end his own. When you make Marines, create killers, send them to war to kill and to destroy, sometimes they can’t leave it on the battlefield. Ian David Long was another casualty of war with 12 innocents as collateral damage . . . when war comes home.

So, this year on November 10th, I will not eat birthday cake, or toast the Corps. Nor will I celebrate the mythology. Rather, I will embrace the reality of the experience; acknowledge the entire process as a charade, a deception, and as a tool of those who profit from our efforts, our sacrifices, our blood, and our lives.

I will again acknowledge my identity as a Marine and accept responsibility and culpability for what I have done and what I have become. And finally, I will speak out to ensure that other young men and women not be mislead into embracing the mythology and lured into the “cult of the marine.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. When the firemen goes into the flames to rescue a child , they are a hero. If the firemen conspire to start more fires so they can have work and glory, they are not heroes. They are criminals.
    When the integrity of our “protection forces” becomes absent , and aggression becomes the norm, then the soldier becomes a slave. The soldier can be bought or sold to the highest bidder (KSA, Israel etc ) and they must do the bidding of the new master. Most insidiously, this practice or system is supported by those who purport to hold the integrity and value of the human soul as most precious. In fact, it is embedded within the system and incorporates it’s false justifications, while rationalizing the necessity. Absolute absurdity and unbound illegal territorial expansion is the state of our military today. And again next year, we will spend more than half of our entire countries wealth on doing it some more. It does not have to be this way.

  2. Camillo, I wonder if you and Gordon have read Mark Twain’s War Prayer. I was going to say, ‘famous War Prayer’, but I suspect it is not as well-known as it might have been, had Twain beeen allowed to publish it during his life-time. Here it is, for those who haven’t read it, anyway :

    https://warprayer.org/

    • I had not seen that before. It is all true and right. They pray and pray and pray, and no matter how much abundance is laid at their feet, they still cry persecution. They are the young and afraid and they have no idea what they do with their prayer. Their ministers and priests are vagabonds and deviants, truly the blind leading the blind. Yes, all of them. The callous mighty, absent of humility and discernment.

    • And Mark Twain was celebrated at one time. Now, if anyone put it out there as such, they’d get the Holy Rollers to beat him to death with their B-I-B-L-E.

      The last time I went to church, earlier this year, during the sacrament the cell phone of a man sitting near me started to ring. The ring tone was “As The Caissons Go Rolling Along” (original title).

      “If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time.”

      I’d say “Quaker Oats” for all . . . but somehow I have a feeling the Quakers sold out their brand too.

      I’m trying to find a home church, but can’t find one that is based on JESUS and his ministry. Even when they use the name of Jesus to define their mission . . . OY VEY!

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