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Once a Marine always a Marine

November 1, 2011
By Richard Clark , Daily Press

ESCANABA - "For there isn't a job on the top o' the earth the beggar don't know, nor do" - "Soldier an' Sailor Too," Rudyard Kipling, 1865.

General Douglas MacArthur commanded U.S. operations in the Pacific during World War II. The United States Marine Corps operated under his command. Some Marines felt they were fighting to make MacArthur look good more than for the war effort. MacArthur had a high regard for the Marine Corps.

Nonetheless it is said that when MacArthur died he told St. Peter he did not want to enter heaven if there were any Marines. St. Peter assured him there were no Marines in heaven. The general walked to the furthest corners of heaven. In one out of the way section of heaven that was almost empty he saw a man standing in Marine dress blues. Those distinctive uniforms are featured in recruiting posters with a dark blue coat with red trim, lighter blue trousers with a red strip and a white hat, cover, in Marine language.

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Richard Clark

MacArthur was shocked and awed that St. Peter had lied to him. He confronted St. Peter. "I thought you said there are no Marines in heaven." Peter assured the general there were no Marines in heaven. The general said, " but I saw one in his dress blues." Peter said "Oh no that isn't a Marine. That's God. He just thinks he is a Marine."

On Nov. 10 the Marine Corps celebrates its 236th birthday. The Second Continental Congress established the Marines on Nov. 10, 1775, and were soon recruited in Philadelphia's Tun Tavern. Marines around the globe, including the Marine Corps League in Delta County, will celebrate their birthday with ceremony and cake.

Marines have their own language, some of which cannot be repeated in polite company or in front of children. Hat - cover, head - bathroom, ladder - stairs, bulkhead - wall are some examples.

Marines run and run and run. When they run in groups they chant. You can buy albums on iTunes that have Marines chanting while they run. If you want to run in a group but no one else wants to run with you "Run To Cadence of U.S. Marines" is an outstanding option.

Marines are complicated. Although they are warriors they do necessarily seek war. Marine General Smedley Butler won two Congressional Medals of Honor as a young Marine in Central America. He ran as a Republican for the Senate and lost.

General Butler was very vocal in the mid 1930s when he wrote "War Is a Racket." He wrote, "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."

Today he may have occupied Wall Street. Marine and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen did join OWS in Oakland, Calif. A police projectile struck him and caused a brain injury during an anti-Wall Street demonstration.

There are no ex-Marines. Once a Marine always a Marine. Marines are regular people with everyday lives in their communities but willing put themselves in extraordinary situations. Marines who threw themselves at Japanese bunkers in the coral cliffs of the South Pacific came home to be teachers and factory workers.

Men and women exposed themselves to the Arctic cold of Korea and the heat and monsoons of Vietnam and returned to be sports writers, bankers, mill workers and attorneys.

Marines come in a variety of shapes and personas. Bea Arthur (Maude), Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) and Jim Lehrer of PBS served as did Lee Marvin, and George C Scott. See .

The patron saint of the Corps, Chesty Puller, served from the end of World War I through Korea. When lights go out at boot camp recruits can be heard sounding off, "good night Chesty wherever you are!"

Colonel Puller's regiment was surrounded by the Chinese at a place called the Chosin Reservoir in Korea. He said, "We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things."

To all Marines - "Happy 236th." Semper Fi!


EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula. He can be reached at



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