Greater love has no man than this...

I am not a religious, church-going, person. However, especially around Memorial Day, Veteran's Day or the Marine Corps Birthday... there are a few sentiments of the Gospel that have real meaning for me.

One personal favorite is this:

        Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for another. - John 15:13

We who are Marines and former-Marines often bear many scars from what might fairly be regarded as a reckless youth. Some of these marks upon our bodies, our minds, and our souls inspire laughter and some are cause for sorrow...even regret. But one of the great treasures we carry forward from the times spent among our brothers and sisters in arms is that we are among the few, a lucky few, who have known this "greater love".

It may seem odd for such a warrior cult to speak of "love" and there are those who will say we know nothing of it - they are wrong. Much what passes for love in our culture isn't anything of the sort. We may lust for the photogenic celebrity. We may envy the possessions of others and crave them for our own. We may call a whole range of emotions and behaviors as "love" - and be wrong in almost every case.

In contrast, the ranks of our Corps are filled with ambitious, capable, intelligent people who could easily make much more money, at much less risk, working the halls of corporate America instead of patrolling hillsides of foreign lands - but they love their country more than money. They run into the crisis and not away from it - because they love the welfare of their fellow man more than their personal comfort. And, sadly, they often sacrifice their lives - because they love, and will protect, their comrades in arms in ways most people cannot imagine.

Clearly this isn't romantic, soap opera and trashy novel, love that I'm talking about here but something a bit more gritty. What we are talking about is not the stuff of cinematic amusement but rather the labor and faith that holds together everything from the central family unit to any great society. It is the stuff called "the squad dynamic" in political debate though most of that discourse doesn't seem to benefit from any actual knowledge of the topic.

Finally, when I think of our how most noble citizens "lay down their life for another" it doesn't require death upon the battlefield but this kind of love is also found in the calm of simple civic duty. General Pete Pace (USMC) once explained that he regularly used to weigh "stay" in the service versus "go" to the more lucrative private sector but always found at the bottom of his "stay" list that "You still owe more than you can pay." It is, in the words of Dr. King, not where you stand in moments of convenience but where you stand at times of challenge.

That more of our social, intellectual and economic elite don't share this sentiment can only be explained by a poverty of character, a lack of love for the commonweal, and evidence of lives to be pitied rather than envied.

I know that in the years since my time in the 'Green Machine' I've been safer, better fed, and more comfortable.... but rarely with a life genuinely as rich as when I was more often in harm's way, regularly starved, and frequently miserable. Must have been the company because it sure wasn't the scenic locales or the accommodations.

So, I always like to remember the greater people I have known. The Lance Corporal who instantly stuck his hand into the firing mechanism of a howitzer to keep it from injuring civilians. The PFC who stood his post with out relief for days because it was a job that needed to be done. The Marines who got the groceries, picked up the kids from school, and did the chores for the family of a squadmate that was MIA. The Marines who wrapped refugees in their helmets and flak jackets.

Finally, and probably only after enough grog, it will be time to remember the really special few able to really teach us about "greater love" and "Semper Fi". The LtCol. who would devote his life in pursuit of those who had killed 241 of his comrades. The Cpl. who would spend the last seconds of his life to give the warning, "Careful, Sir. The hill is mined."

Semper Fi and love to you all.

- Brian