semper fidelis

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Disband the Marine Corps

By: Col. Arthur J. Corbett USMC (Ret.)

It would be better to disband the Corps than see it dishonored and its virtues and values destroyed.

The Pieta in St. Peter's Basillica --Rome, Italy

A vandal once took a hammer to the Pieta. It was a shocking and unexpected event, but the fact that it happened suggests a perverse streak within our nature to desecrate that which others revere in order to gain attention for ourselves. That the vandal could not himself have created an object so sublime did not mean that he could not, with a stroke of a hammer, indelibly mar its beauty or offend its admirers. Such is human nature, and such is tragedy. As individuals, institutions, and cultures, we are all sometimes vulnerable to tragedy through no fault or volition of our own.

Tragedy is not inevitable, but the confluence of political opportunism, ethical narcosis, and moral malaise that dominate and subvert American culture have ripened the opportunity for our political leadership to do what no enemy has done in 217 years—sully the reputation and honor of our proud Corps. While homosexuality is a tragic reality, and those who indulge in its indignities deserve prayerful compassion, they are not fit to lead men in battle. Culture vandals may debate this issue, but as Marines we know this intellectually, morally and viscerally. For the civilian, this may be but one of the many irreverences that he has endured as a member of the declining culture, but for the Marine it is a violation of a sacred trust. We have always perceived that the threats to our honor were external to our borders and could be countered with courage, zeal and competence. We never suspected that the threat to our ethos would come from within our Nation and be sanctioned, however indirectly by the American people. The sorry fact is that this will not be a gross betrayal by a dark and sinister force –rather it will be a culmination of banal evils from a progression of noxious ideologies. The result will he the same, only the intent is more benign.

Ayn Rand made this trenchant observation on the subversion of virtue within a culture:

When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute: when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by the scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.

And so we find ourselves at a crossroads as an institution. Though prayer and reason might yet triumph, it is clearly time to fight and prepare. For such an undeserved indignity to be heaped upon such a noble institution, with but a whimper of protest, would betray the untold thousands who bought with their blood the honor we enjoy. Yet we are constrained in our efforts by the very nature of the political system that they fought to defend, and we recognize that, while this tragedy should not happen, it is ultimately not our decision to make.

America will get both the Government and the Military Establishment that it deserves. God has blessed us richly in the past with remarkable strength in both institutions, but now we choose to go it alone. We have displaced faith in Providence with confidence in technology. We enjoy a wide, but inevitably temporary, advantage over potential adversaries in our technological capability, and so we grow both prideful of our position and forgetful of the very values that ennobled our success. Like all civilizations that have preceded us, we are passing through the culminating point of culture and starting down the precarious slope that lies beyond.

Lt. Gen. Victor H. Krulak

Soon, we must again answer an important question that has frequently been asked in the past: Do we really need a Marine Corps? As we know, Lt. Gen Victor H. Krulak answered that question in his book First to Fight: America does not need a Marine Corps—the other Services could manage an adequate defense without us but America wants a Marine Corps, because it feels safe knowing that there is a band of warriors always ready to respond rapidly, against unknown odds, to any national emergency. America felt good knowing that men of character, who shared a warrior ethos, stood ready to do its will. But some of America has changed its mind and now seems to regard virile virtues as a vestigial encumbrance upon a society that prefers dissolute equality over honest distinction.

Marine Corps history is replete with examples of uncommon valor and common virtues. The extraordinary successes that Marines have achieved in battle have earned for our Corps a reputation that is the envy of every other Service and that is unequaled in modern history. Our customs are steeped in tradition, and our traditions have been respected and honored by successive generations of Marines. We are esteemed by our countrymen and feared by our enemies. Our dead are remembered, and those who once wore our uniform, are forever entitled to claim the title “Marine.” We are indeed a unique and proud brotherhood of warriors.

Perhaps now is the time to recognize that although America might, for the first time need a Marine Corps, it no longer wants one. It is true that the future portends many littoral conflicts to which a Marine Corps should respond, but the other Services will adapt. They will certainly adapt better to amphibious warfare than the Marine Corps will adapt to recruiting sexual deviates. Marines are an incredulous lot by nature, and brutally honest in their observations and decisions. The young officers who attempt to explain how homosexuality is an “alternate” instead of a deviate life style will quickly lose the respect of their Marines and a bit of their own honor in the process. Sanitized terms like “sexual orientation” may serve to obfuscate the gross realities of a perverse lifestyle to a jaded public, but Marines living in a barracks will rightfully question leadership that discredits by association the sacrifices they are willing to make. The party line will be that homosexuals are Marines, just like you. The cognitive dissidence that this simple, yet official, lie must engender will tug at the credibility and ultimately rend the integrity of our Corps.

Critics claim that homosexuals already lurk in our ranks. The salient difference between the current reality and the proposed policy is that now the homosexuals lie to the Marine Corps. Soon we will find that to accommodate homosexuals, the Marine Corps must lie to Marines, and they in turn to one another. Institutions like the Marine Corps are not built upon deceit.

Official emblem of the United States Marine Corps - the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

We dare not tarnish the reputation of our Corps. Too many valiant men have fallen in honor for us to allow the term “Marine” to be degraded in a futile attempt to lend dignity to practitioners of unnatural acts. It is time to case the battle colors and ask Congress to disband our Marine Corps. The Army has long sought the Marine Corps as its own, and in many of the world’s navies there are naval troops. We can preserve our reputation, and that of those who have preceded us, by not compromising our values as a Corps. We should transfer our personnel to another Service and don their uniform. It is better to wear proudly the uniform of another Service than to see the Globe and Anchor progressively defamed. As we know, the Marine Corps is not essential for national defense; it is an expression of pride and competence by a strong people. America is our home and the home of our families. There is still much here that is worth defending. By disbanding now we preserve more than a tradition of honor and service—we preserve a remnant of hope for a future generation.

There will be time in the future, as there has always been in the past, when America will be threatened. Survival may become a dim prospect, and ancient virtues and values will be recalled. From such a crucible may emerge a neophyte warrior who remembers that his grandfather, or perhaps his great-grandfather, had been a sergeant major of Marines. If he is confident in his fellow warriors, loyal to his country, resolved on victory,

Marine Corps Color Guard at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

uncompromising in integrity, and dedicated to both innovation and tradition, then he may have the audacity to claim the title “Marine.” Once again, America will want an elite corps of honorable men to do the difficult today and the near impossible tomorrow. Old battle colors, dusty but unstained, will be unfurled, and proud men will commit their lives to God, Corps, and Country. They will inherit an unblemished tradition, and what will provide the continuity between our Corps and theirs will be a common motto: Semper Fidelis! It will be the intervening years, when there wasn’t a Marine Corps, which will validate for all time the motto itself.

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Arthur Corbett was a student at the Naval War College at the time this article first appeared in the January 1993 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette. He went on to retire from the Corps after 21 years of service with the rank of Colonel.

This article by Col. Corbett expresses the same elevation of spirit one can see in the testimony given by Col. John Ripley before the HASC in 1993.  For information regarding the first cradle to grave biography of Col. John Ripley, click here: An American Knight.

 

This article is re-printed courtesy of the Marine Corps Gazette and copyright is retained by the Marine Corps Gazette.

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An American Knight: The Life of Colonely John W. Ripley USMC

First biography of legendary Marine Corps Colonel John W. Ripley.

by Norman Fulkerson

On November 1, 2008, Ron Darden was watching the evening news when an item, scrolling across the bottom of the screen, caught his eye. He was shocked to find out that his former company commander, Colonel John Walter Ripley, had died at his home in Annapolis, Maryland.

On that same day, I decided to write An American Knight, The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, the first biography of this great man.

*                       *                       *

Sergeant Darden admitted that he was afraid when, as a 19-year-old lance corporal, he first joined Lima Company. He drew guard duty on his first night in Vietnam and described how his fears were put to ease when he received an unexpected visit from Captain John Ripley, Lima Company’s fearless commander, who jumped into the foxhole next to him.  The solicitous captain asked Darden where he was from, if he was married and how his parents were getting along without him.

During this night visit, John Ripley spoke to Ron Darden with the gentleness of a father and told him it was okay to be afraid, but that he should not let his fears dominate him. Sergeant Darden would go on to earn a Silver Star when he ran out into the middle of a firefight to save the life of a wounded Marine who lay helpless on the ground. He is a man who has seen the worst of war while serving under the best of battle field commanders.

As Darden related stories about John Ripley during a phone interview, I sensed that this Silver-Star-recipient was fighting back tears as he remembered this remarkable man and that unforgettable night so many years ago. He could not believe the lack of news coverage of this great man. His surprise quickly turned to frustration and then anger as he searched for more details about the passing of a man, who, long before his untimely death had already been revered as a “living legend.”

The news of Colonel Ripley’s death did in fact begin to hit the airwaves and his obituary eventually appeared in

Painting by Col. Charles Waterhouse of John Ripley dangling above the Cua Viet River as angry North Vietnamese soldiers fire upon him.

Painting by Col. Charles Waterhouse of John Ripley dangling above the Cua Viet River as angry North Vietnamese soldiers fire upon him.

The New York Times.What the Times and so many others newspaper articles recounted was the story of a man who blew up the Dong Ha bridge on Easter Sunday in 1972. This is understandable considering that Colonel Ripley almost singlehandedly halted the largest Communist offensive of the entire Vietnam War. This amounted to stopping 30,000 enemy troops and 200 tanks. He was successful in this task and would later sum up in actions in a succinct way:

“The bridge was there, the enemy was there, and I was there.”

Desiring to Tell the Whole Truth

What he did on that day defies belief and I could not fail to narrate the Dong Ha story in An American Knight. There is so much more to Colonel Ripley, however, that has been conveniently overlooked or glossed over by those either unable or unwilling to tell the whole truth. Colonel Ripley was a rare type of warrior who willingly and, his sons told me, enthusiastically addressed a number of politically incorrect issues of his day.

800px-A1C_Gonzalez,_377th_SFS_-_Kirtland_AFB

Ashley Gonzalez of the United States Air force. No comment!!!

I saw the importance of one of the issues he addressed when I was “mugged by reality” in an airport some years ago by the sight of a young lady about to board a plane. She was a picture of femininity, in every way, except for her battle fatigues and the rucksack thrown over her shoulder. Moments later, her tearful parents said their final farewells to a daughter being sent off to do a man’s job.

It was only natural, therefore, that I drew an enormous consolation when I first read the heroic testimony of Colonel Ripley against sending women, like this one, into harm’s way. While others paid homage to the “god of equality,” he chose to defend the noble ideals of womanhood and femininity. This, and his care for children, were the things which caused me to see in Colonel Ripley a modern-day knight.

Since justice is the virtue whereby man renders to each what is due to him, I could do nothing less for this great man. This was one of the motivating factors which urged me to write his life. Mysteriously enough, I was egged on in this project as much by Colonel Ripley himself, as anyone. In a letter to a friend he said something which struck me like a voice from beyond the grave: “If a young officer or Marine ever asks, what is the meaning of Semper Fidelis, tell them my story.” After reading such a thing, I could not fail to tell this man’s story?

“I Walked with a Hero.”

There was another motivating factor which urged me on and that was my desire to console hero-seeking-Americans who yearn for a role model like Colonel Ripley who they can admire and emulate. During the researching of An American Knight, I took time to read numerous website commentaries and was inspired by the eulogies posted by average Americans.

One man, no doubt inspired by the Marines’ Hymn which speaks of Heaven being guarded by U.S. Marines said the following.

“We claim Semper Fidelis as our motto, but it was Col. Ripley’s life. His loyalty was complete, in all directions. The earth is less today without his soul, but the heavens are a safer place tonight.”

Another comment was even more impressive but demands an introduction.

Colonel Ripley was an outstanding officer who took great pride in the position he earned. This can be seen in the picture I chose for the cover of An American Knight. Yet he was a man that had a profound humility and never wanted attention drawn to himself. Colonel Ripley was not a man who tried to impress others with his Navy Cross or his legendary status. In fact he would often point out the achievements of those of lesser rank and frequently expressed his unbounded appreciation for the common Marine Corps grunts that “get the job done.”

He did this in a very refreshing way without ever adopting the “one of the guys” egalitarian attitude, so lamentably

John Ripley (right) as a Naval Academy midshipman with his brother Michael who died while test flying the Harrier.

John Ripley (right) as a Naval Academy midshipman with his brother Michael who died in 1971 while test flying the Harrier.

common among many people of higher station. Colonel Ripley was, from top to bottom, a serious Marine Corps officer and was not ashamed of it. Yet he never missed the opportunity to challenge those around him to reach higher. It is for this reason that towards the end of his life he gave himself wholeheartedly to mentoring. He loved to counsel young men starting out on their military careers, especially those of the United States Naval Academy, his alma mater, which he loved with his whole heart.

All of this helps in understanding better a comment of a midshipman after Colonel Ripley’s death:

“This is the same man who sat at dinner with me and asked me, a first class midshipman, about to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, to sign his program for the evening because he was going to read about me in the papers and all the great things I did for the Marine Corps. I walked with a hero. Semper Fidelis.”

Rest in Peace Now!

I saved the best eulogy for last. It came from a mother of four, who defined herself, even if inaccurately, as a simple American women.” I pray that she someday know how moved I was to read her words.

“I never had the honor of meeting Col. John Ripley. In fact, before a dear friend suggested that I look him up, I had never heard his name. But I have sat here and read stories of his life and countless postings by the people that loved him and will miss him dearly. I am a simple American woman enjoying a world that Col. Ripley dedicated his life to protecting. I am humbled by the recounts of his heroism and tireless dedication to his country. I suppose I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you from the core of my being and on behalf of my four children. When the time is right, I will tell each of them of this great man, Col. John Ripley. May God bless your soul.”

I thank you also Colonel Ripley. Rest in peace now, I will them your story.

Back cover Marine

Back cover of An "American Knight". A solitary Marine pays his final respects beside the coffin of Colonel John Ripley.

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