Like many businesses and institutions, the Marine Corps has a set of values that encompass the attitudes and choices that its members abide by. Unlike other businesses and institutions’ employees, for Marines, these values are a lifestyle that has been ingrained into them since their first day of training. Ask any Marine what the Corps’ values are and they will immediately respond with HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT. On the surface it might seem simple. All of the words fit well into the definition of a Marine. It’s pretty straight forward. However, if you dig deeper, you will find that those words aren’t so simple to a Marine. Expectations are weighted onto each word. When a Marine graduates boot camp they might say three words to describe the values of the Marine Corps, but have actually committed to so much more going forward.
HONOR is the foundation that the values are built on. When you think of honor, or any of the three values, think of what the perfect form of that is. It takes an extremely high level of dedication and focus to uphold the highest ethical and moral standards. Marines won’t steal, cheat, or lie. They have a responsibility to themselves and those around them to be honest and fair. They are held accountable for their actions and hold others accountable as well. The pride of the Marine Corps stands on this value. Without honor, the other values will fall short.
COURAGE is something that might come to mind immediately when you think of Marines. What they say, is that courage is the heart of the Corp; meaning, it is something that comes from deep inside. It’s the will that pushes Marines during the mental, moral, or physically trying moments. It gives them the strength to confront challenges and push the fear and self-doubt to the side in order to make hard or stressful decisions. Courage is a value that really separates Marines from the rest of us. It’s a concept that is instilled in many of them before becoming a Marine, and then driven into them harder during training. This gives them the ability to lead and put forth the extra effort needed in times when someone needs to step forward.
COMMITMENT is taking honor and courage and dedicating your life to the cause. When a person becomes a Marine, they are committed to standing up for the mental, moral, and physical challenges that they may face. They are committed to themselves as a Marine and to the brothers and sisters that stand next to them. They are committed to serving the country and defending the constitution. This is something that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. Hence the phrase, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” There are never ex-Marines or former Marines. There are only reserve Marines, retired Marines, or Marine veterans.
These values were first adopted by the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl E. Mundy Jr., when he published his memorandum titled the “Commandant’s Statement on Core Values of the United States Marines.” The values perfectly addressed what generations of Marines felt and experienced. Since they were founded on November 10, 1775, every Marine has had to hold these values, even if they weren’t official until years later.
The concept might have come around later, but the ideals were in every Marine from the beginning. Honor, Courage, and Commitment are the reasons why Marines are known as the elite warriors that they are. They didn’t receive the nickname Devil Dogs from the Germans for nothing. They received it because they wouldn’t back down. That is what Marines do in challenging, frightening times. The values that are ingrained into them prepare them for the moments when no one else wants to do the dirty work, or the moments that someone has to go in first. We know and expect this from Marines because of these qualities. It’s these qualities that make them the kinds of men and women who stand up to the challenges and conquer them.
It’s no wonder with such a strong foundation of values that are introduced from day one, that Marines walk as tall as they do. The pride and honor of wearing the uniform carries so much history and celebrity in our nation’s development. Knowing a little more of the weight of each word reveals why Marines are held at such a high standard.