Happy Birthday, Marines … and many more

A Marine platoon graduating from boot camp in 1942.

In libraries and bookstores I used to find myself in the history section, leafing through books about conflicts from years’ past. The photos wedged in the middle of these books often caught my eye. They invariably showed an array of young men in uniform, standing with their rifles and machine guns, maybe in formation at parade rest, smoking, joking, smiling or frowning. Usually trying to look tough.

I used to wonder who these guys were and what they were like. Turns out they were us.

1st Platoon, Company F, 2d Battalion, 8th Marines in February 2003 aboard USS Saipan. The others were on mess duty for picture day.

The above photo of my platoon – my first – was taken aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan in February 2003, about six weeks before we crossed the line of departure into Iraq. The little red flag in the middle is the company guidon, which ended up seeing quite a bit of action over the ensuing years – six combat deployments starting with the Iraqi invasion nearly a decade ago. The most recent for my old battalion – 2d Battalion, 8th Marines – was Afghanistan in 2011.

Officers and Staff Noncommissioned Officers of Fox 2/8, February 2003.

Most of us went on other deployments and turned the page to start new chapters in our lives, but there was no time like that first time. It was my first platoon after finishing Infantry Officer Course, my first time aboard a ship not bound for a Caribbean vacation, our first time shooting live ammo at people and wishing the recipients harm. Of course, we certainly were not the first to go through all of this. The path had been well worn by the bootprints of many others under much tougher circumstances, as pictured below.

Marines at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 1950.

2d Platoon, Company F, 2d Battalion, 8th Marines during the Battle of Nasiriyah, March 22, 2003.

When all is said and done, we were one link in the chain. A proud one to be sure, but ultimately a short, humble strand within a long blood stripe that began at a Philadelphia pub on November 10, 1775 and streaked across the ages in places like the Philippines, China, the Caribbean, Central America, France, the South Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Cpl Federico Diazmartinez and then-SSgt Ricky St. John at the hospital near the southern bridgehead leading into Nasiriyah, March 25, 2003. You can see Chairman’s nose behind Diaz’s right ear … I swear.

The cliche is that these were ordinary guys who ended up doing extraordinary things. Some, like Jason Dunham, were standouts in life long before they put on a uniform.

Deb Dunham, center, the mother of Marine Cpl Jason Dunham of Scio, N.Y., wipes a tear away after President Bush, presented her with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony for her son, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Dunham fell on a hand grenade in Iraq in 2005, giving his life to save comrades. From left are, his father, Dan Dunham, brother, Kyle Dunham, Deb Dunham, brother Justin Dunham and the president. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Others were already stars in a very different field.

Ted Williams was a Marine pilot who flew 39 combat missions during the Korean War and served as a flight instructor during World War II. The Red Sox batting champ refused to defer service and cushy stateside assignments, eventually flying alongside future astronaut John Glenn.

Teddy Ballgame in his other uniform.

Through the years, when you saw a Marine in his Dress Blue uniform, a girl ready to shed her virtue wasn’t far behind.

Marine Raiders in World War II.

But not a cold beer in sight, except in the warm hands of a Marine.

Drinking free cold beer, 2004.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, raise your glass to the fallen, to absent friends, to the ones who went before and the ones who will go forward in the coming years. Happy birthday, Marines … and many more.

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About Chairman Mao

I like fomenting socialist revolutions and purging my homeland of pseudo-intellectualism and capitalist dogma. I also like sports, dogs and food (although I wouldn't consider myself a foodie).
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4 Responses to Happy Birthday, Marines … and many more

  1. Charlie says:

    Will do. Cheers!

  2. Garrett says:

    Happy Birthday Jeff, Semper Fi, and thank you for the writing and pictures! My favorite part of history class from as far back as I can remember is looking at those black and white war pictures, I always thought of them as we snapped digital crispness all over the sandbox and what a different way it is for other people to not understand the context of what they are viewing even though it looks as clear as today, full of young men strong like yesterday.

  3. Thanks for liking my 4GWAR USMC B’day post. Happy Birthday to the Marines everywhere.

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