The phrase “Semper Fidelis” (Semper Fi, for short) embodies for all Marines, both past and present, a certain something that can’t be easily described, but is understood and valued as part of the ethos of every Marine. It is at the heart of what makes the Marine Corps the premier fighting force of the United States of America, if not the world.
Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful.” Recently I heard that the term was used in the past by Marines who, finding themselves in trouble (usually in a bar) and needing help would shout, “Semper Fi!” All other Marines, past and present, within the sound of the needy Marine, or Marines, were to come to their brother’s aid. This may have been so, but I’ve not been able to validate this, not to mention that it sounds a bit specious to me.
It was in 1883 that the Marine Corps’ 8th Commandant, Colonel Charles McCawley, adopted this phrase as the official motto for the Corps. Semper Fidelis is emblazoned on the banner held in the talons of the eagle on the Marine Corps seal, the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.
A few years later in 1889, the director of The United States Marines Band, John Philip Sousa, composed what has become the Marine Corps March, “Semper Fidelis.” Sousa believed this to be his greatest musical work.
In our present high-tech age with electronic gadgetry for everything, Marines I communicate with by e-mail frequently conclude their correspondence with “Semper Fi,” or the further shortened, SF. Among Marines, nothing more needs to be said.
Last night during our Ice Cream Social at church, I was speaking with the daughter of a Marine friend who recently tried out for a spot on the ever-popular TV program, “American Idol.” Allie’s dad, Dave, was a Marine, serving with the 3rd Marine Force Recon in Vietnam. Dave earned three Purple Hearts, and two Silver Stars. I met Dave in 1988 while stationed in Stockton, California. It was my privilege to introduce Dave to Jesus Christ. About ten years ago, it was my honor to be the enlisting officer for Dave’s son, Paul, who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Dave died two years ago next month.
So here I am talking with Allie who, in recent years, has been actively pursuing a career in Hollywood. She has a beautiful voice and has been singing in church for as long as I’ve known her. She decided to honor her father during the auditions for American Idol. She chose to sing the Marines Hymn. You know the one – “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli.” I would have really enjoyed being there for her as she dedicated this to her father. The judges were impressed with her performance. However, by her own admission, she said the guy sitting next to her had an incredible voice and was selected to advance by the judges. It took a lot of guts for her to sing a patriotic service song in the bowels of liberal Hollywood. But this is part of what personifies Semper Fidelis.
I know that Dave would be busting his buttons if he were here to see his daughter sing the Marine Corps Hymn. American Idol may have chosen someone else, but there’s not a Marine today who doesn’t stand just a bit taller because Allie has embodied the Marine spirit of Semper Fi.
Listen carefully and you may just hear Marines utter in response another famous sound of Marine pride – Oorah!
Semper Fi, Allie.