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Letters From The Corps

Thanks to all the current and former Marines and other members of the U.S. military who emailed in response to my column yesterday. Getting the kind of response I did from the troops over a simple, humble 700-word article praising the United States military is more proof, I think, that the media in this country does a terrible job celebrating and honoring those in uniform who defend it.

Here's an example of the type of response I received:

Thank you for taking up the cause and standing up for the Marine Corps. I saw the same cartoon from one of the Marines I served with years ago. I have tried on my own to try to generate some condemnation and some help in standing up to an unjustified cheap shot by a person who does not have a grasp on reality. My outrage was not so much at him using the very freedoms that thousands of better men and women have sacrificed over the years to provide him, no it was the fact that the most important tenet of our legal system he denied to every single Marine including the ones accused of atrocities by saying that a crime and a cover up occurred before the investigation and the courts-martial were even held. Every American is entitled to the presumption of innocence until they are convicted of a crime. Thank you once again for conducting yourself in an honorable manner and defending an institution that has been defending before this country was even established.

And another who voices more detailed frustration with the media:

I am a Marine Captain and Iraq War Veteran and I just wanted to send you a thumbs up and good old Marine Corps OOORRRAAAHHH!

Frankly many of my peers are worn down by the media and their constant "gotcha" techniques of reporting. We are tired of many stories of goodwill going unreported. When I was in Iraq, specifically Baghdad, the Iraqis were concerned about one of their local schools because it had been used by insurgents. Myself and several of my Explosive Ordinance Disposal Techs entered the school and found over 50 suicide-bomber vests and a brief case bomb. Nearly 1,000lbs of explosives were set to blow as a boobytrap. And I am sure you know what a 1,000lbs of explosives looks like when detonating after witnessing Zarqawi's safe house being blown up.

My point is that for every kind act to spread goodwill and win the hearts and minds of good Iraqi people nearly goes unreported. However, every single negative issue is splashed across the front pages. WE are tired of living in a fish bowl. We are tired of living at such a high standard and held to that standard while politicians who we expect to do the same continually get away with corruption, bribery, sexual misbehavior, etc., etc. This leaves us to wonder why we in the Military who aim to live at an unprecedented standard of discipline are hung out to dry but politicians and media types get a free pass.

We are tired of the "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" of the media. How can they possibly think or know with any relevance what happened in a fire fight? How can they possibly question a leaders decision in the middle of a shootout? The answer is that it is disrespectful to those men and women in uniform who have to make the critical decision in a split second. And a lot of those decisions are made by what we in the Marine Corps call "Strategic Corporals." These are young men around the age of 21-22 years old make death-defying decisions in the heat of battle.

I would like to ask some of the media types what type of decisions they were making when they were snot-nosed college graduates? They ever yell to the Marine on their left or right to advance against an enemy who is hell bent on killing you! I will freely admit mistakes are made, we are not perfect, to err is human, however this standard is not applied to we hardchargers in the Marine Corps or our sister services. We are expected to be at superhuman standards nearly 100% of the time. I would ask you how many days have you had were things just were not going your way and you decided I am going home laying down on the couch taking a few aspirin and calling it a day. In war there is no days such as these, you have to be on your game every minute of every day watchful of each of your Marines.

Finally I just wanted to say great article and please keep fighting for this notion that we are doing just and honorable work for our great nation even if we make a few mistakes don't destroy the trust because we are only human.

Here's a slightly different take:

As a four year veteran of the Marines (1961-65) I, of course, stand ready to defend the honor of the Marine Corps. However, the honor of the Marines needs no defending. For 230 years the Marines have fought this nation's battle and as the Marine Corps Hymn says "First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean." There have been failures of discipline in the Marine Corps in the past and they will no doubt occur in the future. However, what makes the incident at Haditha so sad is that it is so rare.

There is one final aspect about this episode that non-marines don't understand. Marines could care less what the world thinks of them. The opinion of a marine's buddies is what counts. I rather suspect that the judgment of other marines is much harsher toward the malefactors at Haditha than any opinions mustered by supporters or critics of the Iraq war.

One veteran who is opposed to the war sent this:

I certainly agree as a veteran that it is honorable to serve in the United States military. In fact, my family has done so in every war back to the revolution. That being said, there is no honor in being ordered to invade a country that was not a threat to the United States. The Marines have been put in an untenable situation by the administration. Those responsible for sending them should be held accountable because they are the ones that initiated the war crimes, which have undoubtedly occured in Iraq. (You're seriously out of touch with reality if you don't think so). The grunts on the ground are victims along with the thousands of Iraqis who have been killed since the invasion and occupation by US troops.

And finally, just to prove that there are, in fact, some virulently anti-military folks out there, I received this:

Mr. Bevan:

What a bizarre little column.

I have a son. He is two. If I am successful in raising him, he will never be a killer for the United States. More correctly, he will never be a killer, period. He will never see "putting on the uniform" as something honorable to do.

Do you share President Reagan's admiration of the United States Marine Corps? Do you believe the job Marines do is inherently good and worthy of high esteem? And if your son or daughter chose to join their ranks, would you feel an enormous sense of pride?

Absolutely not. The acceptance of any military job at this point is to buy into an imperialist scam.

People are being asked to put the lives of their children on the line for ever-shifting reasons and motives. Staying as far out of military service is a right and just thing to do.

It always surprises me that conservatives, of which I am assuming you consider yourself, consider the United States a noble nation brought together and bound together by shared ideals, then they are willing to betray ideals for "the greater good," or "the good of the country." When the nation based on these beautiful ideals betray those ideals, of what good is that nation? How deserving our our allegiance is that nation?

All of this without even mentioning the appalling inhumanity of the corrupt beasts holding the office of president and vice president.

I am an American by birth, not choice. My only goal is to survive in this country, but I hold no feeling of warmth or allegiance. We have a broken government on every level, and the people in high offices lie, and fools like you call it truth. My highest goal is that my son will never be in the meat grinder of the military. Ever.

The honor and nobility of the U.S. military is only enhanced by the fact that its members serve, fight, and die to protect the rights of people like this, even though many would argue they do not deserve it. Thankfully, as I tried to point out in my column, these folks are a small minority, and the vast majority of Americans do in fact hold military service in very high esteem. Semper Fi.