14 July 2013


by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 14 July 2013

"A Marine on duty has no friends." Marine Corps proverb

At 0030 this morning I was startled from deep sleep.

At the foot of my rack stood two tall Marines - General Robert H. Barrow and Colonel John W. Ripley. They were clad in blue-white dress "A" and armed with sword, hence covered, at the carry. A large medal Navy Cross and Silver Star, on each, sparkled - as did all medal on chests and a port. A stunning sight!

 Marine officer's Mameluke sword

General Barrow did not speak. But his solemn gaze bore straight through me.

Colonel Ripley, to General Barrow's port and a pace back, looked directly at me and said, "Marine, your orders are to get your Mameluke and 'The Marine Officer's Guide.' Then, figure it out." 

The detail departed - they vanished.

No, not dreaming.

The Marine Officer's Guide

I rose and went to the closet to retrieve my sword - removing it from the black hard shell case and brown protective cloth sleeve, and then the sword from the scabbard. Oh, what a sweet sound when the blade slides from sheath.

Then, I proceeded back to the office to pull 'The Marine Officer's Guide' (4th edition) from a bookshelf crammed with military tomes. Ironically, the Guide rested between James Bradley's 'Flags of Our Fathers' and Allan R. Millett's 'Semper Fidelis - The History Of The United States Marine Corps'.

Sitting at my desk with sword to port, I opened the Guide to the Foreword written by General Louis H. Wilson, Jr., 26th Commandant, a warrior and hero of our Corps who was awarded the Medal of Honor, and read his three short paragraphs. The last three sentences of the middle paragraph striking:

"As I compare the first edition with the new fourth edition, I am struck not so much by things that have changed in the Corps as by the things that have stayed the same. I commend to the reader's particular attention those portions of the Guide that deal with the traditions, customs, and history of our Service. That is what binds us together and does much to ensure the continuity of the Corps."

A few more pages in, I read the 'Introduction to the First Edition' written by General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., 20th Commandant, who was awarded the Navy Cross; Distinguished Service Cross; three Silver Stars; Bronze Star with combat "V"; multiple Purple Hearts; and more. His words about the same in length as General Wilson's but captured in little more than four paragraphs. The third paragraph as striking as General Wilson's three sentences:

"Thus the Marine Corps is - or could be - in a time of transition. At such times it is all too easy to forget, depart from, or discard the well tested ways which brought us where we are. Fortunately, those ways are still with us, and such a book as The Marine Officer's Guide must be of the greatest value in keeping them with us."

The extraordinary courage and heroism and words of wisdom proffered by these two Marines, commandants, timeless. Enduring. Think Marines, think!

In the words of The Honorable John Nicholas Brown, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1946-1949, "In the vast complex of the Department of Defense, the Marine Corps plays a lonely role."

General Amos, Sir, in my public letter to you published on Monday, 24 June 2013, I humbly offered an observation and a suggestion. This morning I respectfully offer another suggestion but it's coming from two heroes of our Corps - those who visited me in the wee hours of the night, I but the messenger.

Sir, make a video. And do so without delay - for distribution throughout our Corps.

You, and your Sergeant Major - to port and a pace back, clad in blue-white dress "A" and armed with sword whilst facing your audience, quietly order, "Draw, sword!" - "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" I Corinthians 14:8

Then, order your Marines, all of them who've earned the title for every Marine is duty-bound to safeguard our Corps - our Battle Color, to strap on their weapons for the time is upon us to fight.

Country & Battle Color of the Marine Corps

"This modern tendency to scorn and ignore tradition and to sacrifice it to administrative convenience is one that wise men will resist in all branches of life, but more especially in our military life." Field Marshal Archibald Percival Wavell (British Army 1901-1943)

And, a thought from Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Daly, Medal of Honor awarded twice; Navy Cross; Distinguished Service Cross; and more, "It's not hard to be an officer, but it's damn hard to be a good officer."

It is sight of our revered emblem - the beautiful eagle, globe, and anchor, a gem not given but earned through sacrifice and perseverance - and the sound of the Marines' Hymn and words "Semper Fidelis" that ever trigger a great big lump in a Marine's throat and a surge of magic throughout head, heart, and soul. Those indescribable feelings only Marines know - with them there is our Corps. If lost, we Marines are no more.

In closing,

If ordered to retire, Sir, you've made a grand statement of Corps lore. Legacy assured - a hero - not for ego but for Corps. Your name to be uttered amongst the greats, the giants of our Corps - if not above them all. For you would have secured the moral high ground - true to self but more so true to Corps, and Country.

What Marine, worth their salt and our sweaty and bloody rich heritage and your stellar example, would then be willing to assume commandant duties?  

Whom? I cannot imagine!

Note: A Public Letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps

Post Script

General Barrow and Colonel Ripley died within a couple of days of one another - late October 2008. I expect to be seeing and hearing more from them - as such time our beloved Corps is righted. Thus, standing by at Parade Rest. But it is rousting me from sleep when they do appear - looking their determined and smartly best.  

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