Commentary by Glynn W. Gilcrease
When I volunteered for the Marine Corps in 1969, little did I realize how much influence the values I learned would stay with me through my life and form many of my worldviews.
I also believe these values could provide ways to help heal and unite the country in the polarized age in which we live.
Never leave the fallen behind: This value is inculcated into every Marine starting in boot camp, not only as a principle for the battlefield but in all aspects of life.
Marines are trained to always go back for the wounded and the dead, but also for those in our country who have fallen behind in the race of life, many not having food or shelter.
I grew up in Weslaco, Texas, the home of Harlon Block. If you remember the award-winning photograph of the flag-raising over Iwo Jima in World War II, looking at the photograph, Harlon is the Marine to your right with his back turned toward you.
On the other side, to your left, with his arms outreaching for the flag is Ira Hayes, the Native American from right here in Sacaton, Arizona. Ira was decorated for his heroism in the battle for the island of Iwo Jima. Harlon was killed walking near Ira as they came down the mountain after the photograph was taken.
Harlon was first misidentified in the photograph because his back was turned toward the camera. But, Ira went back for Harlon.
Ira wrote a poignant, heartfelt letter to Harlon’s mother and then hitchhiked to Weslaco and promised Mrs. Block he would make sure Harlon was properly identified. And, Ira kept his promise.
In Weslaco, there is the Harlon Block Memorial Sports Complex and other tributes to Harlon.
Harlon was the reason I volunteered for the Marines during the Vietnam Era. Then, establishing my career as a trial lawyer in Tempe, and learning what Ira Hayes had done, “never leave the fallen behind” has special and emotional meaning to me.
I use the slogan in supporting the Boys and Girls Club of the Valley, where many of the children in our Valley communities are left behind because they are poor, have only one or no parents living with them, are abandoned, or have both parents working to try and make ends meet.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link:
This means we must try to lift our neighbors and brother-and-sister citizens and not kick anyone down the ladder, as too often seems to be what is happening around us these days.
Maybe you know someone, perhaps a neighbor, who is down and needs some encouragement or a helping hand.
I propose that you reach out, regardless of that neighbor’s political persuasion, race, or sexual preference, and help them up. If we could only view each other as fellow Americans, as one giant unbreakable chain that we strengthen and support regardless of political differences, just imagine how that would look and feel! In the Marines, it meant reaching back for a Marine who might be slower or weaker, so we could all achieve our goals as a unit. We can do that for all Americans, too.
We are all one color, Marine Corps Green:
This saying was used in getting across the notion that the color of one’s skin didn’t matter in the Marine Corps, and I never saw that it did.
This isn’t meant to trivialize or ignore any isolated incident of prejudice that may have happened in the Marines, or in any branch of our Armed Forces.
It was instilled into every Marine that we are all one color.
The Marines had some pretty effective ways of getting this concept across in boot camp, such as informing us that we would all, regardless of race, be treated exactly the same—harshly and rigorously in training—and, we were!
Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful): The Marine Corps was established by the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775.
In 1883, the motto Semper Fidelis was officially adopted; and, in 1889, John Phillip Souza wrote a great march by the name Semper Fidelis.
The march is different from the Marine Corps Hymn. You will see Marines always stand when the hymn is sung or played. You will often hear Marines shorten the motto as they say to each other, “Semper Fi.”
What it embraces are all of the values and principles I have written about here.
Marines go back for each other. They make the weak stronger and the slow faster, treat each other respectfully regardless of color or sex, and are always faithful to our country and each other. Integrity, commitment, and selflessness define being faithful.
We can work together using these values with the common mission of uniting our divided nation.
Toys for Tots Program: On Nov. 1, the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program will begin.
This is a program where Marine recruiters across the county will collect toys to give to underprivileged kids at Christmas.
Beginning in 1947, the Marines have contributed 604 million toys to 272 million kids. This is a very special humanitarian effort that we can all participate in with the Marines.
You can learn more information about how you can help with this wonderful project which embraces the Marine Corps values by contacting the Military Affairs Committee at the Tempe Chamber of Commerce or visiting Toysfortots.org. T
The contact information for the Marine Corps recruiters is:
Tempe: Mario.firstname.lastname@example.org, (480) 921-7762.
Chandler: Moises.email@example.com, (480) 857-0921.
Glynn W. Gilcrease is a lawyer who practices in Tempe. Reach him at 480-897-0990.