The Marine Corps taught me the sort of practical things that all men should know but don’t these days like how to shoot a weapon, survive in the wilderness, navigate by compass and map, and take care of your feet.
The Marine Corps taught me the true meaning of words I had only before read about in Shakespeare: honor, obligation, courage, fidelity and sacrifice. These were no longer merely a part of some story from an epic script on war, but real memories about real men in war.
In the Marine Corps I learned what it means to be truly happy and what it feels like to be truly sad. And I realized neither had anything to do with me but both had everything to do with the unit and the definition of a meaningful life.
In my travels I learned that life isn’t very easy for most people in this world. And that we are blessed to have won life’s lottery and to have been born in this country.
I learned that freedom is impossible without sacrifice and neither matters very much without love.
I learned that it’s not what’s on your chest that counts, but what’s in your chest.
I learned that standards matter. I was taught the importance of discipline. And of letting go from time to time.
I learned that all it takes is all you got.
I learned a good NCO is worth his weight in gold…a good Staff NCO is absolutely priceless.
I learned it is important to write letters to yourself along the way because the details will escape you.
I learned there is a difference between regret and remorse.
Phase lines help you eat an elephant. Which is true with so much in life I suppose.
I learned that apathy is the evil cousin of delegation.
The Marine Corps taught me about physical courage, team work, the absolute virtue of a human being’s great adventure and that all men fall.
With respect to tactics, I’ve found it most critical to never say never, and never say always.
I learned the importance of a good story shared among friends. Or a good glass of scotch enjoyed in solitude. Or of the importance of sailing away until you cannot see the coastline anymore…and then coming home, a better man.
I learned that faith matters. And that aside from the importance of believing the universe is so much bigger than any one man could ever comprehend, I learned that I truly believe in the power of a great bottle of wine, the courage of the enlisted Marine and the tenets of maneuver warfare.
I discovered my morality.
I learned how to fight in the Marine Corps…and my time in bars with my brother-Marines has taught me that contrary to our own self-perpetuated mythology, not all blood that Marines shed together is on the battlefield.
The Marine Corps taught me how to think aggressively. How to respond under pressure. How to perform. How to live excellently and that nothing is more important than the mission or the Marine.
The Marine Corps taught me how to laugh – deeper than I ever thought imaginable – and how to cry. And that a warrior’s tears reflect his soul.
Finally, the Marine Corps did more for me than I could have ever done for it…it gave me an extraordinary adventure to live that is mine and that I will never for the rest of my life forget.
And then there’s this last irony…
That I would have the honor of spending these years studying and practicing the discipline of warfighting alongside the wonderful modern Marine-hoplite only to realize that what I learned had so much less to do with war and so much more to do with love.
How do I feel in the 72 hours since I’ve left the Marine Corps?
I miss it already.
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