From my earliest days, I was always awed by the character
of the Marine
Corps, by the passion and love that inspired the sacrifices of Marines like
my father and his friends. As a young boy, I admired the warriors and
thinkers who joined our family for a meal or a visit ... Marines like
"Howlin' Mad" Smith, Lemuel C. Shepherd, Gerald C. Thomas, and Keith B.
McCutcheon. I wondered about the source of their pride, their selflessness,
and their sense of purpose. Now, at the twilight of my career, I understand
those Marines. I know that they were driven by love for the institution to
which they had dedicated their lives and by the awesome responsibility they
felt to the Marines who shared their devotion and sacrifice. Today, that
same motivation burns deep within the heart of each of us. The ethos of our
Corps, purchased so dearly by these heroes of old, reaches into our souls
and challenges us to strive tirelessly for excellence in all that we do. It
profoundly influences the actions of every Marine that has ever stood on
the yellow footprints at our Recruit Depots or taken the oath as an Officer
The ethos of our Corps is that of the warrior. It is defined
by two simple
qualities ... our two Touchstones. The first is our Touchstone of Valor.
When we are summoned to battle, we don our helmets and flak jackets; we
march to the sound of the guns; we fight and we win - Guaranteed. The
second is our Touchstone of Values. We hold ourselves and our institution
to the highest standards ... to our core values of Honor, Courage, and
Commitment. These two Touchstones are inextricably and forever linked. They
form the bedrock of our success and, indeed, of our very existence.
Our Touchstone of Valor is the honor roll of our Corps'
Bladensburg, Bull Run, Cuzco Well, Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo
Jima, Inchon, the Chosin Reservoir, Hue City, Kuwait ... the blood and
sacrifice of Marines in these battles, and countless others, have been
commemorated in gilded script and etched forever on the black granite base
of the Marine Corps War Memorial. The names of these places now serve as
constant reminders of our sacred responsibility to our Nation and to those
whose sacrifices have earned the Marine Corps a place among the most
honored of military organizations. The memory of the Marines who fought in
these battles lives in us and in the core values of our precious Corps.
To Marines, Honor, Courage, and Commitment are not simply
words or a bumper
sticker slogan. They reflect our deepest convictions and dramatically shape
everything that we do. They are central to our efforts to "Make Marines,"
men and women of character who can be entrusted to safeguard our Nation and
its ideals in the most demanding of environments. We imbue Marines with our
core values from their first moments in our Corps because we know that
Marines, not weapons, win battles. We also know that success on the
battlefield and the support of the citizens whose interests we represent
depend on our ability to make moral and ethical decisions under the extreme
stress of combat ... or in the conduct of our daily lives.
As an institution, we have had to fight hard to maintain
our standards. To
some, they may seem old-fashioned, out-of-step with society, or perhaps
even "extremist," but we know that our high standards are the lifeblood of
the Corps, so we have held the line! In this regard, what individual
Marines are doing everyday counts far more than anything that is done in
Washington. The standards of our Corps are not simply maintained by
generals, colonels, and sergeants major, but, far more importantly, by
leaders throughout the Corps, at every level. The Marine conviction that
Semper Fidelis is a way of life, not just a motto, speaks powerfully to the
citizens that we serve. It also unites us with our fellow Marines, past and
present - inspiring us to push harder, to reach further, and to reject the
very notion of failure or compromise.
Sustained and strengthened by the ethos of our Corps,
you have accomplished
a great deal during the past four years. I have been humbled to be part of
your achievements and witness to your selfless devotion. Time and again,
Marines distinguished themselves in contingencies around the world, across
the spectrum of conflict. Marines from across the Total Force were the
first to fight, the first to help, and the first to show America's flag --
consistently demonstrating our resolve and readiness to win when called to
action. With the involvement of the Fleet Marine Force and input from the
entire Corps, the Warfighting Laboratory has looked hard at the 21st
Century strategic environment. Marines "stole a march" on change by testing
new concepts and emerging technologies, exploring new tools for developing
leaders and decision makers, and experimenting in the "Three Block War."
Our recruiters, drill instructors, and small-unit leaders have implemented
the Transformation Process and are recruiting, training, and developing the
"Strategic Corporals" for tomorrow's conflicts. Led by Marines at the
Combat Development Command, we have deepened our understanding of
Operational Maneuver From The Sea (OMFTS), its enabling concepts and
technologies, as well as its many challenges. The men and women serving in
the many thankless billets at Headquarters Marine Corps and in the joint
arena have developed and articulated our requirements for the future and
have secured the resources to translate OMFTS into a reality. Our
supporting establishment, at every post and station, has epitomized
selflessness and dedication while providing for our readiness requirements.
All these things are important - and they are the accomplishments of every
Marine. None of them, however, are as significant as maintaining our hands
on the twin Touchstones of our Corps.
The words of my father ring as true today as when he first
wrote them over
fifty years ago. "We exist today -- we flourish today -- not because of
what we know we are, or what we know we can do, but because of what the
grassroots of our country believes we are and believes we can do ... The
American people believe that Marines are downright good for the country;
that the Marines are masters of a form of unfailing alchemy which converts
unoriented youths into proud, self-reliant stable citizens - citizens into
whose hands the nation's affairs may safely be entrusted ... And, likewise,
should the people ever lose that conviction - as a result of our failure to
meet their high - almost spiritual - standards, the Marine Corps will
May God bless each and every one of you and may God bless our Corps!