by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 18 July 2013
"Never to Quit"
The grand design, of the universe and life, is so simply complex we mortals are never to unravel - "solve" - the multidimensional mega-jumble of intertwining(s). That includes the seemingly randomness, which is not random, of humans crossing paths. There's pattern, however mysterious. And more so there's rhyme and reason.
Today's comment revolves around an unplanned, unexpected encounter between two humans - two Marines, two colonels.
Four weeks ago come Monday I published, 'A Public Letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps'. http://acoloneloftruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-public-letter-to-commandant-of-marine.html
That straightforward letter has garnered quite a large audience - that is still growing. One Marine friend suggested, "You can bet our enemies have read it." Most likely.
Marines from all generations, to include deceased, have been in touch. Some I know. Most I do not. A major chord was struck! The emotion oozing from emails is sometimes gut-wrenching. The common theme is Marines and friends of Marines are sickened by what is happening in America, to our military, and particularly to their beloved Marine Corps.
One wrote in their opening sentence, "Sir, I, too, am a Colonel of Marines, and as you, I agree that I am still, and always will be, a Marine." It is that Marine who crossed my path that's the hub of today's comment.
But where to begin? That has been the nagging question for a couple of days. Perhaps some perspective is the best starting point.
A few days ago, late in the evening, I sent an email to that Marine colonel kindly pointing out that he quit high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps when I was but 13 months old.
He replied, "Thanks Buddy! LOL".
When I accepted my commission, he had 22 years active duty under his belt - retirement eligible he'd been for two years. But he was nowhere near ready to hang up his uniform. Another 14 1/2 years he served.
And so now to begin.
This week I learned our Marine Corps home library has been missing a book - an important, terrific book. Now I've a sense of duty to offer a comment or two as well as suggest that it's missing from your shelf(s), too.
Oh, like most bookshelves in Marines quarters, you'll find all the standards - Guidebook for Marines; The Marine Officer's Guide; The History of the U. S. Marine Corps; The Great Game; This Kind of War; Fix Bayonets; Flags of Our Fathers; Battle Cry; and more.
But that missing book? Look closely.
The missing book?
I received that book - 'We'll All Die As Marines' - this week (read it in two days, impossible to put down). The sender? The author - that old Marine colonel. The one respectfully heckled about my age when he enlisted. He was among the first to respond to my public letter - offering agreeing words and generously a copy of his book.
I recognized his unique surname - we'd met ever-so-briefly some twenty years ago at his retirement ceremony. A captain (now colonel) I was working with at the time, who once worked for this colonel and heaped praise upon him, made the introduction.
How could anyone forget "Bathurst"? - Colonel Jim Bathurst, USMC.
Before I continue, and to set the record straight, Colonel Bathurst has no prior knowledge of today's commentary. None. Otherwise, shy of the spotlight, he'd likely have asked to not be center stage. But the spotlight he deserves. Forgive me, Colonel!
I digress momentarily but necessarily - his superb book, 'We'll All Die As Marines - One Marine's Journey From Private To Colonel' is available on Amazon and an inscribed, autographed copy is available directly: www.wellalldieasmarines.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a Marine's story. A true story - told like only a Marine can tell a story - candidly and colorfully sometimes with necessary, not superfluous, raw language.
But the book is so much more than the title suggests. It is not just 'One Marine's Journey From Private to Colonel' - it is an American history lesson. It is a Marine Corps history lesson. It is a serious study in leadership - Marine Corps style. As such it is a study of perseverance; learning; teaching; mentoring; respect; trust; integrity; moral courage; and enduring friendships. Not to mention every single Marine Corps leadership trait and principle and the practical application thereof.
It is a true story of and about Marines. The names of Marines he served with that I, too, served with or knew of a testament to how small our Corps; something he mentions a time or two. Many others, too, will know these Marines.
Words escape me as to how best describe the importance of this book - which the author admits was never intended to be. Maybe he does not fully appreciate just how important his story. Nor how fortuitous our meeting, again. What a tragedy had his book not been realized. Absolutely a tragedy. And now I wonder how many other Marines, all of them, their invaluable stories lost, forever; sadly, for our culture loses.
Were I still on active duty, every Marine under my charge would read Colonel Bathurst's book. And keep their copy within arm's reach for handy reference. Frankly, every Marine - active; reserve; retired; not in a duty status; hell, even dead Marines and mascots - should read it. And especially the generals. The sergeants major, too. And the young Marines, enlisted and officer, to better understand Corps history - and heritage and tradition and culture that is not slipping away due to neglect but is being deliberately destroyed by means of absurd social experiments and dopey ideas like "gender-norming," all during a carefully orchestrated void of leadership, that do nothing to strengthen combat readiness and effectiveness - the only reason(s) for having a Marine Corps.
To pause a moment for a point of emphasis. No matter how cleverly defined, presented, tested, analyzed, and defended "gender-norming" - in either direction - is mediocrity. Mediocrity is a foreign concept to Marines. In tough, fast-paced, long-lasting, unpredictable, and dangerous operations, training or combat, mediocrity will get Marines injured and killed. That is truth!
'Chapter 28 - The Silent Majority'
I'll not give it away. It was an afterthought. The short chapter addresses current events as to country and Corps. Colonel Bathurst's direct heartfelt sentiments echo what I have been writing about for the past few years. Though his analysis and opinion is with far more experience and passion still. He is blunt. And on the mark - 'in the black' as Marines say when on a rifle or pistol range.
Speechless I was after finishing the chapter - and immediately sent a short note telling him so. And offered, "Bravo!"
And though his book is so much more than his personal story, considering all of his accomplishments, it's difficult to believe there were not Bathurst triplets on active duty. Maybe there was! He was everywhere. Doing everything ordered to do. And doing everything asked of him. The greater the challenge the more he wanted the assignment. How one Marine achieved so much during a career is remarkable. No wonder fellow Marines nagged and nagged him to write the book.
His service record goes to something I heard another Marine colonel, a friend, point out during remarks at his retirement ceremony eight years ago, "Never did I know of a Marine who got out of the rack in the morning, looked in the mirror, and said, "I'm going to fail today.""
Marines do not know failure. It's not an option. Never has been.
Colonel Jim Bathurst is a successful leader because he loves Marines, he loves the Corps, and he loves his country. Though what is happening today is painful to witness. It's more than painful.
His Marines knew he loved them. And they knew it not for what he said but for what he did - the simplest sincere acts of human decency and respect, of shared hardship and danger. He set the example. He was demanding but fair. He cared for his Marines not asking nor ordering them to do anything he was not capable of, had not once done, or was not willing to do; and that whether on drill fields, parade fields, and especially battle fields.
Private, corporal, sergeant, gunnery sergeant, lieutenant, captain, or colonel - he, 1) led from the front; 2) ate at the end - last. Those two axioms are not clever tag lines but the simple complexity of Marine Corps leadership - leadership that begets followership that begets leadership. They are disciplined behaviors, though some believe contrary to human nature in the name of self-preservation, that play perfectly to all that is human, all that is Marine. Rank alone - whether stripes, bars, or stars - does not a leader make.
Colonel Bathurst - Marine! Leader of Marines!
And there are many Marines, past and present, as good and some maybe better. Where are your books? We need them.
So, back to the opening paragraphs. There's reason why Colonel Bathurst and I, again, crossed paths, but nary a moment to be wasted understanding why. I am a little smarter than that. And so is he.
Read his book - laugh, shed a tear, and think! And fill the library void, too.
"We'll All Die As Marines"
As I watch what's going on in the Marine Corps today, I wonder when senior leadership last reviewed 'The Marine Officer's Guide,' 'Guidebook For Marines,' and refreshed their memories of the 11 General Orders? And, I wonder if they have read Colonel Bathurst's bible of candor, common sense, and doing what is right because it's the right thing to do not because it's the party line, self-serving politically correct act of compliance?
Every single American 16-years of age and older should read and digest the story and message - stated and implied - in Colonel Bathurst's tome; that's not just a voice from a knight but a metaphorical weapon of good. I'll go so far as to say any citizen who reads it will be a more informed, better citizen. And if that citizen so happens to be a Marine a better Marine they will be. So, pass the word. Yes, pass it along.
For our National Ensign, our Colors, is under attack. So is our Corps, our Battle Color, under attack. The latter's only purpose is to protect and defend the former. We have a serious problem - we are being recklessly exposed to those who aim to do us harm, to kill us.
And yet where is our citizenry? Where?
Wake up! Remember, Representatives and Senators speak a common language - votes. Call them. Write them. Hound them without rest. Tell them you'll not stand for this nonsense of emasculating our, your, military - weakening defenses with your family's safety and security at stake. Tell them! And keep telling them. Nag them to death!
And where are our, your, Marines - knights - those seasoned warriors of backbone through which moral courage flows? Where?
Country awaits those who'll boldly, despite the odds, step forward and fight and struggle to restore order.
Pause. Ponder. Act!
I served under fabulous leaders. And, as did Colonel Bathurst, one or two who believed themselves fabulous - some, "politicians," the same and so are our unforgiving sentiments about them.
Oddly enough, as a lieutenant I served in 2/6. A handful of years later, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Bathurst commanded 2/6. That captain, Dave, that introduced me to Colonel Bathurst served under him in 2/6. Never to Quit!
The three of us shared the experiences of Parris Island recruit training - they were recruits; Colonel Bathurst a DI, too; and me a series commander and company commander supervising the making of Marines. Between the three of us we covered the three male battalions in the Recruit Training Regiment. Oh, the ties that bind. Small Corps.
As for being a colonel, I remember having a cold beer at the Officers' Club one evening with a general whom I hold in high regard. A brigadier at the time, he was not so happy with treatment coming from headquarters. After a hefty swallow of suds he thought a moment and reflectively said, "Oh to be treated like a Colonel of Marines again." Yes, indeed.
Happy Birthday! Robert F. Sommer, USN aka: "Big Bob" - my father-in-law, a WWII Tin Can Sailor who loved Marines. We miss him every day.