And that’s not negotiable. On Wednesday, the United States Marine Corps will celebrate their 235th birthday…and Marines everywhere will raise a glass and toast the past and present with these simple words, “Semper Fi.” And Veteran’s Day is the same week….double the reason for celebration and a Grand Salute.
You see there are no ex Marines, as some of the uninformed refer to people who served in the undisputable most distinguished branch of our country’s armed services. Here around the pond, former Marines like Jim Beasley, Gene Hale, Don Childrey, yours truly, serial #2257213, will be joined by Marines all over the world in remembering this special day. And one thing I’m absolutely certain of is that from high above, where the Marines have longed believed the pearly gates are guarded by none other than a detachment of United States Marines, that Jerry “Sarge” Henson will be humming the Marine Corps Hymn.
Many old time Grand Lakers will remember Jerry from his days at Dripping Springs Marina. Sarge was absolutely bigger than life and was a Marine through and through. A gentle guy with an unmatched love of life, who identified with young and old alike. If a person wanted a good butt chewing, just neglect your flag etiquette, leave you hat on during the playing of the national anthem or bring your pacifist political views to his attention.
He flew the Marine Corps flag everyday, right below our national flag and his dog was appropriately named Chesty, as in Chesty Puller, the most famous of all the Marine Corps Commandants. When Sarge found out I was a former Marine, the bond was not to be denied and wasn’t optional.
Ask any Marine. He will tell you that the Marine Corps was born in Tun Tavern on 10 November 1775. But, beyond that the Marine’s recollection for detail will probably get fuzzy. So, here is the straight scoop:
In the year 1685, Samuel Carpenter built a huge “brew house” in Philadelphia. He located this tavern on the waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley. The old English word tun means a cask, barrel, or keg of beer. So, with his new beer tavern on Tun Alley, Carpenter elected to christen the new waterfront brewery with a logical name, Tun Tavern. Rather Mooney’s like I would say.
In the mid 1750’s, then Col. Benjamin Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia. He used Tun Tavern as a gathering place to recruit a regiment of soldiers to go into battle against the Indian uprisings that were plaguing the American colonies. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Continental Congress later met in Tun Tavern as the American colonies prepared for independence from the English Crown.
On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress commissioned Samuel Nicholas to raise two Battalions of Marines. That very day, Nicholas set up shop in Tun Tavern. He appointed Robert Mullan, then the proprietor of the tavern, to the job of chief Marine Recruiter — serving, of course, from his place of business at Tun Tavern. Prospective recruits flocked to the tavern, lured by (1) cold beer and (2) the opportunity to serve in the new Corps of Marines. So, yes, the U.S. Marine Corps was indeed born in Tun Tavern. Needless to say, both the Marine Corps and the tavern thrived during this new relationship.
I always said I was destined to become a member of a branch of the service born in a tavern. While it a stretch, Tun Tavern is the birth place of the Marine Corps and you can bet it’s still being taught that way to Marine recruits in San Diego and Paris Island.
Being a Marine is not just something appreciated Marines themselves. The following are some selected comments from outside the corps:
Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem. [Ronald Reagan, U.S. President; 1985]
Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They’ve got really short hair and they always go for the throat. [RAdm. “Jay” R. Stark, USN; 10 November 1995]
They told (us) to open up the Embassy, or “we’ll blow you away.” And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, “Igaralli ahow,” which means “Excuse me, I didn’t mean it, my mistake.” [Karen Aquilar, in the U.S. Embassy; Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991]
Now there’s no doubt the Marines have a good positive image of themselves and believe there no mission which can’t be accomplished. Here are some selected quotes from within the corps as follows:
For over 221 years our Corps has done two things for this great Nation. We make Marines, and we win battles. [Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC (CMC); 5 May 1997]
Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever? [GySgt. Daniel J. “Dan” Daly, USMC; near Lucy-`le-Bocage as he led the 5th Marines’ attack into Belleau Wood, 6 June 1918]
Don’t you forget that you’re First Marines! Not all the communists in Hell can overrun you! [Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC; rallying his First Marine Regiment near Chosin Reservoir, Korea, December 1950
You’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me! [Capt. Henry P. Crowe, USMC; Guadalcanal, 13 January 1943]
We are United States Marines, and for two and a quarter centuries we have defined the standards of courage, esprit, and military prowess. [Gen. James L. Jones, USMC (CMC); 10 November 2000]
I love the Corps for those intangible possessions that cannot be issued: pride, honor, integrity, and being able to carry on the traditions for generations of warriors past. [Cpl. Jeff Sornig, USMC; in Navy Times, November 1994]
The one thing about an online publication is there is no space limitation and due to the ramblings of this piece I’m sure no one else will pick it up for publication. But this is a “Big Deal” and deserving of a grand celebration by Marines past and present. As all Marines know, there are eleven general orders, and they could recite them at the drop of a hat. But my time in this select club was not without its lighter moment which I will cherish forever. The friends made, the fears shared and the missions accomplished will always be there, but let me close with the 12th unofficial general order written by some private on guard duty in some distant outpost no one has ever heard of as follows:
I’ll walk my post from flank-to-flank, won’t take no s&%t from higher rank and these are the orders I just received, from the son of a bitch I just relieved.
As we pause to remember both Veteran’s Day and the birthdays of the United States Marine Corps, one thing remains a constant….young men and women around the world continue to make checks written by politicians good regardless of the bank they are written on!
Semper Fi Brothers and Sisters