12 July 2013


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 12 July 2013

"The strong man is not afraid to speak out, but rather he fears remaining silent."
Plinio Correa de Oliveira

Dear Marines, Marine families, and friends of Marines,

Today, a letter - in which the commentary title question will be addressed throughout and answered, directly, at the end.

The opening quote is from Chapter 18, page 109, in a book to be cited momentarily.

Minutes after publishing 'A Public Letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps' on Monday, 24 June 2013, emails started to flood in - from Marines, all generations and ranks, and friends of Marines. Nearly all strangers to me, nary a single dissenter.

The response was, frankly, far beyond what I expected and could have imagined. There were hundreds and hundreds reading on the commentary site round the clock for days. As word passed, hundreds soon turned into thousands. And shortly thereafter the letter had been cut and pasted into emails and posted on sundry websites thus making its way before the eyes of tens of thousands if not more. One Marine sent a note saying the letter was going viral. That it did. Another Marine recently suggested hundreds of thousands have read the letter. Perhaps. Who knows how many by now.

Some have asked if the commandant responded? No. Nor do I expect a response as that was never my intent. Remember, my letter, as stated in the opening paragraph, was offered as a situation report - what is going on in the field, what one Marine's eyes and ears have detected. Commanders can do with such reports as they wish - heed; ignore; trash.

A number of notes were especially heart-warming. But none more so than an email string, letter included by means of cut and paste, with some company grade infantry officers (combat veterans) weighing in. They read the letter and passed it along to others with advice to "grab a beer or two and read - though long it's worth the time." A greater compliment there's not. So Marines of different generations, but like character, can still relate. With that there's hope.

As days passed, more and more emails. Keeping up with sending a cordial reply to each and all became a full-time job. I don't think I overlooked anyone. I hope not. If so, sincere apologies.

Further, 19 brave souls opted to submit comment directly to the commentary. After review, I posted 18 of them. The one I did not post was for the simple reason the author, though offering name, did not abide by the posted forum rules of civility - their submission took text out of context and was a personal affront. Unacceptable.

Among the more interesting emails, Mr. Norman J. Fulkerson, author of 'An American Knight - The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC' whom I do not know, sent a flattering note that included offer to send along a copy of his book. I graciously accepted with one condition, and that's been done.

Though with four or five books now underway, yesterday I added Mr. Fulkerson's book to the active stack and started reading. I could not put it down. And wanted more after finishing. Hence, his fine work is recommended - platitudes escape me - as insight on an American hero - a rare breed of Marine, and more so for thoughtful perspective on homosexuals in the military and women serving in combat.  

I did not know, nor serve under, Colonel Ripley. And that is regrettable. But friends did and they spoke highly of him. They still do. My parents met him. Of course they were impressed.

As it turns out, Colonel Ripley and I have a few things in common. We were raised Catholic; spent much of our youth in the great out-of-doors; played sports; found mischief on occasion; have a brother who is a Marine who flew the Harrier (AV-8A) - but my brother survived his crash; trained in cold weather in the dead of winter hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle in Norway; have a sister though his older than him; and there was another life experience or two we share.

Yet let there be no misunderstanding, Colonel Ripley's career was remarkable and distinguished by unfathomable combat heroism, and more than a few times. Not so for me - my time in uniform, comparatively, was remarkably unremarkable. So goes timing, assignments, and personal decisions.

And Colonel Ripley and I share one other commonality - an important one: Our moral upbringing and steadfast commitment to speaking the truth and doing what is right despite popularity or political correctness - to be unafraid of the inevitable consequences thereof. Such was Colonel Ripley's way. Such has always been my way, too.

My public letter to the Commandant focused on serious matters eating away at the moral fabric of the Marine Corps - open homosexuality and women in combat (especially ground combat and the infantry) - thereby threatening the Corps, and the core, of all things Marine and our warfighting capability.

Colonel Ripley addressed these matters on the record in strong, no uncertain terms. He was adamantly against them and his position was based on upbringing and personal experiences on battlefields. His graphic descriptions of gruesome, absolute horror in combat perfectly complement the broader perspective and eloquence of testimony offered during the same timeframe by General Robert H. Barrow, USMC, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

It's not my intent to here marginalize the experience, thoughts, and wisdom of battle-hardened warriors so please take a few minutes to read Colonel Ripley's statements offered in the Post Script. They are powerful. Sobering. And compelling. And, if yet to listen to General Barrow speak, then certainly set aside 13 minutes or so for the video likewise offered in the Post Script. His words and pauses and gestures and body language powerful. Sobering. And equally compelling. Even if having heard his remarks, listen again. And again. And pay close attention to the visual(s).

As there is no military need for neither homosexuals nor women in combat, entertain the questions, 1) "What kind of American man steps aside or back to allow, to force, a woman to fight in his stead?"; 2) "Is cowardice in vogue or the new American way?"

General Barrow and Colonel Ripley viewed women in ground combat (and open homosexuality) from a moral as well as practical military perspective relative to national security, and as inane conditions destructive to unit cohesion and combat readiness and effectiveness. Neither Marine minced words. Both highly decorated combat veterans - General Barrow in three wars - who today has greater credibility? No one sitting on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman inclusive. Nor anyone in Congress, the Cabinet, and White House.

With the current Marine Corps, and other services too, senior leadership - all flag officers for that matter - remaining silent they, by default, are party to open homosexuality and women in combat (especially ground and infantry units). Therefore, one is logically led to wonder if there is a void of morality, of character, of courage - to speak truth and do what is right even at own peril.

Thus, it's impossible to understand the moral foundation from which today's senior military officers advise and "lead." Who would want to serve alongside or follow them especially when under extremes of pressure - like combat?

As such, will our military be able to retain, much less continue to draw, men and women of the strong moral character proven to be requisite for making Marines (and Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen)?

Doubtful. For strong moral character seeks strong moral character. And there are grumblings from within and outside the military to suggest that conclusion.

So, remembering George Orwell, the mere thought of the roughest men possible not standing by to do violence on my behalf interrupts restful sleep; and that's been the case for some time.  

I do not enjoy the refined gentlemanly character and wisdom of General Barrow; the spit and polish and raw eloquence of Colonel Ripley; nor the fresh perspective and mental agility of today's battle-tested young Marines that write and speak of the topics at hand.

However, I do admit to an enduring penchant for offering truth and doing so bluntly but respectfully - indifferent to whom addressed for truth is truth.

Protecting and defending America is the issue - as it should be the grave concern of every citizen old enough to understand that evil is reality that lurks around every bend and Americans, worldwide, are target number one. Those in positions of authority and power cowering and buckling to the clueless or devious driving agendas contrary to building, fielding, and sustaining the most capable and powerful military possible is irresponsible at the least and treasonous certainly.

Marines, generals, silence - in essence, dereliction of duty - will be the death of the Marine Corps. And, in turn, our United States.

Strong men and women are not afraid to speak out. Let's not forget that our pledge and sworn oath of service is to flag, country, and Constitution. And God!

As Colonel Ripley, a devout practicing Catholic, was famous for saying and doing, "Press the attack!" Yes, "Press the attack!" - that's what leaders do!

Otherwise, as recommended in my public letter to the Commandant, and as another principled, morally courageous Marine, Colonel Art Corbett, USMC, wrote some 20 years ago when, as a major, addressing homosexuality - 'Disband the Marine Corps' - furl and case our colors.

In closing,

So, back to the title question, "Oh why my public letter to the Commandant?"

"Moral duty!" Forever a Marine - committed to speaking truth, the blunt truth, and doing what is right. It's no more complicated than that. Simple. 

Those doing the fighting, taking the hill, and sweating and bleeding and dying deserve the best out in front of them - leading the charge up the hill. They have that in their corporals and sergeants and lieutenants and captains.

But what about charging the Hill? Ho hum, the whereabouts of generals and admirals known. Yet unknown. Not the clanging of armor and unsheathing of blades but the silence deafening.

The alarm sounded. Long, shiny trumpets blare! So where, oh where, art thou American knights? Where? For dire need of your moral courage; physical strength and endurance; mental toughness; clanging armor and wielding of swords; and exemplary leadership is now. Duty!

Who's the knight? He's the one who fights against insurmountable odds whilst accepting that defeat and death inevitable - for mission and men before self. And yet, somehow, the bloodied and physically and emotionally exhausted determined knight prevails. He then wipes his sword clean, returns it to scabbard, and prepares himself, and his men, for the next fight. Leadership!

Now, in light of repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the ongoing efforts to push women into ground combat, some may scoff and think this all unreal; completely surreal. But it's no fable - for history has shown us, time and again, that knights are indeed for real.

So, "Keep the faith!" - as another good knight, General Barrow, once sagely advised. Somewhere out there marches our knight. And fighting, he, and his men, will prevail.

Semper Fidelis,

A. F. "Andy" Weddington
Colonel, U. S. Marines (Ret)
(0302 trained for, never fought)

Note: Please, if opting to cut and paste this letter into an email, include the important Post Script and Author's Endnote next under. Thank you.

Post Script

In my public letter to the Commandant, I confessed to being haunted by the ghost of General Barrow. And that is true. Now it's Colonel Ripley, too.

A Public Letter to The Commandant Of The Marine Corps http://acoloneloftruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-public-letter-to-commandant-of-marine.html

The next three links are courtesy of Mr. Norman J. Fulkerson.

Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC

Testimony of Col. John W. Ripley to the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces

Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC
Statement of Col. John W. Ripley before the House Armed Services Committee

'An American Knight - The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC'

General Robert H. Barrow, USMC - Senate Armed Services Committee (subcommittee) testimony

Author's Endnote

Last month the Department of Defense celebrated LGBT Month. Odd. In this week's news there was mention of Marines being authorized to wear uniforms for marching in "Gay Pride" parades. What? Nonsense! Ridiculous! For what purpose do these festivities serve our military in the name of cohesion? Marines celebrate as one - our Birthday - on 10 November. All else is superfluous, and not only unnecessary but offensive and destructive.

Corps & Country - Colors!



Jim Bathurst said...

Andy, Yet another scholarly tome! I knew Sir John Ripley well, never under, but alongside. He CO 2d Marines, I CO 2/6. What a gentleman, leader, and mentor. We spoke often, and each time I came away smarter, more professional. He was not quite up to Barrow's level, but would have been had the Corps seen the light and made him what he deserved to be - a general.
Jim Bathurst
Col, USMC (Ret)

Jim Bathurst said...

Andy, Again, yet another superb tome, and as always, on the mark. I knew Sir John Ripley well, although one grade below, I served alongside, never under. He CO 2d Marines, I CO 2/6. We talked often, he the speaker, I the listener. I always came away smarter, more professional. One of our more recent legends, not quite yet up to Barrow's level, but would have been had the Corps acknowledged his worth and gave him what he deserved - a star.
As always, thank you sir, and Semper Fi!
Jim Bathurst
Col, USMC (Ret)