Since around 2005 this slogan has become somewhat of a trademark in describing a United States Marine. It was popularized by then Lieutenant General James N. Mattis when he took command of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command but the actual quote itself is somewhat of a bastardization. It goes back to the days of Ancient Rome when one L. Cornelius Sulla Felix, a general and dictator at the time had the following words engraved on his epitaph.
"No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full."
General Mattis soon found himself in a bit of hot water when upon being interviewed during the command ceremony had this to say.
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."
I’m not gonna try and describe the quote in civilian terms because I feel that would be fruitless. On the battlefield though, I believe it should be read in a different context.
No better friend...
I’m very far removed from my days back in the suck but I’ll be damned if I still can’t recall the vast majority of people I’d served with. I’ve got a bunch of old photo’s stuck together in albums that never fail to bring a smile to my face whenever I take a trip down memory lane. God, we looked so young then. Maybe it was the cockiness or arrogance of youth that was etched in our faces. We looked and felt invincible.
Much to my detriment, I never stayed in touch too long with my former comrades but I often find myself wondering how their lives turned out. I hope they think the same of me from time to time.
One strange thing did happen though. I think I was out for about 20 years or so and was travelling on a business trip to Boston. I was sitting there at the bar nursing a few beers and I couldn’t pry my face away from this guy and his wife who were seated at a table. We kept exchanging furtive glances at each other until finally it dawned on me who I thought it was. I mustered up the nerve to go over to them and extended my hand and with a curious tone to my voice asked him if he was “Buzz”.
A smile crossed his face and he said something like “It was Buzz then but it’s Bill now. Borgo?”
Naturally drinks were flowing the rest of the evening as we caught up on recent events and bullshitted our way through some sordid tales we had at various ports of call during our time together.
We left with a promise to stay in touch.
It never happened.
No worse enemy…
I can’t be 100% positive but I’m pretty certain I woulda died for those guys back then and I think they woulda done the same for me. I can’t speak for other units or other branches of the service when it comes to bonding and loyalty but I’m pretty sure that besides my kids, I’ve never felt that way towards another single person or group of people in my life. We sweat, we bled, we laughed, and we cried together and if one person was hurting God have mercy on the soul of the person that caused that hurt.
The recent events in the news that depict Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan comes as a big disappointment. Even though I don’t know what went on to prompt that kind of behavior, I probably don’t want to. Those guys, if found guilty will most likely face a court martial and be drummed out of the Corps with a dishonorable discharge hanging around their necks for the rest of their lives.
Maybe that old saying is true, sometimes you are your own worst enemy.