The Few … The Proud

Oh, what things mankind has conceived in the taverns of the world. If you were to stop and think about everything that has been introduced to mankind, been invented discussed, built up and torn down in this world I think it would be safe to say that nearly everything has a connection to a tavern or at the very least some sort of fermented or distilled beverage can be made. I know what you’re thinking, but seriously when you read that it was Committee from the Continental Congress that drafted the resolution to form the Continental Marines in a place called Tun Tavern you just know that they were not sitting there drinking coffee and apple juice well at least probably not unfermented apple juice anyway I also doubt very highly that if they were drinking coffee that wasn’t perhaps spiked with a little rum on top of it, after all it was November. While I hope that every Marine knows that they owe the Corps beginning to a meeting in a tavern in Philadelphia I can’t expect the public at large to know that. They all even know the name of their first Commandant as well as the first Captain and recruiter of the newly formed service. For those of you that don’t know Samuel Nicholas would be appointed the first Commandant while Tun tavern owner himself Robert Mullen would become the first Capitan and first recruiter. What I would like to know though is who the first grunt, Private Joe if you will, was. What was that first recruiting driver like, now it’s for sure that Capitan Mullen couldn’t point to the long proud tradition of the Marines as a selling point to get men to join up. Sure it was a time of revolt the fight was on against an oppressive government and all that so maybe it wasn’t that hard but still raising two Battalions was, especially in colonial America, and still is a lot of men to get to sign on. It’s not like they could use join the Marines and see the world either, it was only a month earlier that congress made it possible for two naval ships to be fitted out. The chances were at that not many of them were going to get that far away that would have to come later I guess. Everything starts somewhere after all and this was where it started.
Not everyone can be a Marine, let’s just start with that, if they could their slogan would be meaningless. You know the one I mean; ‘The Few, the Proud…’ and so on. I guess if everyone could be a Marine they could use ‘The Multitudes, the Proud…’ but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I have found quite a bit about the two “first Marines” Commandant Nicholas and Captain Mullen, but I have yet to find anything about that first grunt. The one that stood up yelled ‘hell yeah’ and placed his mark on the enlistment paper. Why do I want to place so much on this man, because I’m the one writing this and you’re the one reading it. Seriously though, without this first enlisted Marine you would have had a couple of men sitting around looking good in their uniforms while drinking beer and talking about the Revolution. Not that I am sure it didn’t happen sometimes just the same, but I’m sure it was more interesting when they finally had a finger in the pudding or a “dog” in the fight as it were. With the recruiting drives around the city and a headquarters in Tun tavern you know there were many pints downed while they raised those first two battalions. Again not that it was a bad thing, as I have said before many good things have come from taverns throughout history.
From the halls of (whatever school you went to) to the shores of bubble gum bay, we will fight our classroom battles with spit wads mud and clay; first to fight for lunch and recess, And to keep our desk a mess, We are proud to claim the title, of our Teachers’ Number 1 Pest! …. Like many kids growing up when I did this was our first introduction to the Marine Corp hymn and what we would later find out weren’t the same words. While our words were much more fun the real words have much more meaning. I wish I could say I had a better grasp on my subject than I do and that I had not told someone that I was working on this piece long before I actually had any idea of what I was going to write. Then again there is a slight chance that I sometimes get myself in way deeper than I ever originally planned to; okay there is a great chance that it happens a lot. That being said I will do my best not to tick off a few thousand Marines especially since I will be talking about them and their tradition. I started this paragraph with a play on the Marine Hymn, but I often wonder why it’s from the halls of Montezuma and not from the road to Philadelphia after all the latter did come first. For that matter why not from the shores of Tripoli to the halls of Montezuma it would be more timeline correct at least. I remember being a little baffled when I found out that the Tripoli action was before the Montezuma action, who would have thought that would be the case. After the first Barbary war the words ‘To the shores of Tripoli’ appeared on the Marine flag later that would be changed to ‘From the shores of Tripoli to the halls of Montezuma’. Somewhere along the way it was flipped around, I imagine that since the authors name is lost to history itself I would guess that to avoid time in the brig they never let anyone know what they had done. I suppose though that like the motto it just had a better ring to it, then again it could have that military spin on it where not everything makes sense and if it does then something is bound to be wrong with it. While officially there are but three verses to the most recognized military hymn in the world there are unofficially many more as each Marine campaign adds a verse. Since the Marines have been involved in so many campaigns in places few if any have ever heard of around the world that if they were added officially they would be too busy to do the things that make them Marines
There are more than a few names that can be attributed to a Marine. A few would even be a good enough reason to have a few knuckle sandwiches. Many however, have been added to the list over the years that any Marine would answer to quite proudly. The origins of such names may or may not be known fully but then again it really doesn’t matter that much, at least not those that are answered proudly anyway. Some names are descriptive enough that everyone can plainly see where they come from. I do admit that there is one long standing name that I never could figure out, until I began this piece anyway. Not that I spent a lot of time wondering or trying to figure it out after all I knew who the name referred to and when you heard it you knew that it referenced a Marine so why wonder any further. I am not sure if the first time I heard it was in movie or not but in the end I guess it doesn’t matter. I do know that somewhere in my strange mind I always equated the name to more of a, shall I say, well-seasoned Marine. Older, perhaps a bit weather worn, with skin that had seen too much sun over the years and not just some boot wet behind the ears still. Either way it is a name that the Marines I have met over the years wear with pride from day one. Yet it wasn’t until a few days ago that I stumbled on to the origin of the nickname leatherneck. It is a name like that of the Marines that is steeped in tradition and one that I hope will never be forgotten. I won’t go into anymore of the names as I have said it before they are descriptive enough for anyone to see where they come from. That and I don’t want any of you hunting me down.
I guess there must be something to this Marine thing, every one of them I have ever met seemed to have one thing in common with the next one. Who is to say where it begins or what it is that starts it, perhaps in each one it begins differently. It matters little as it is the where it takes them that gives that commonality that esprit de corp if you will. I cannot say that I have ever met one of you that have regretted your service. While they may not have liked where they went what they did or what happened, they all still had that one thing in common. None of them regretted being part of the Corp itself and each believed that it was what made them who they were now. What it all boils down to in the end is that one grunt pounding the ground, walking the beams, flying the missions around the world. They are the ones that made the Corps what it is today. That first enlisted grunt began the traditions that have been handed down again and again from generation to generation of Marines. Sure Marine Officers have a lot to do with those traditions and the making of a Marine and who would lead them if not the officers. Then again as I said earlier without the grunt the officers would just look good in their uniform while drinking beer in the tavern. Yet after two hundred and thirty six years you must be doing something right as generation after generation they line up and keep making their mark on the enlistment papers in order to be one of the few, one the proud.
So to each one of you that have and still wear the uniform proudly I salute you, and perhaps ask your forgiveness as well on the off chance that my tongue in cheek tribute wasn’t felt so tongue in cheek. I raise my glass filled with my favorite beverage on this the occasion of your Birthday. May you always be proud to claim the title United States Marine, fighting for right and freedom all over the world!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Few … The Proud

  1. Bradley

    Nice sentiments, Wayne! One does not ever need be a Marine to honor and respect heir traditions and sacrifices.

    Happy Birthday Marines!

    Bradley
    (Marine Corps Association)

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