Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Berkeley - Getting it Wrong

Amazing! The Marine Corps recruiting office in Berkeley, California, a city infamous for its protests of the Vietnam War, is once again making news by officially ordering the United States Marine Corps Recruiting Office to leave their fair city. Why? Because the Marines are “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” Are you kidding me?

I enlisted in the Marine Corps in Oakland, California. It was in late ‘72 after returning from Vietnam that I found myself assigned to a Marine squadron at Naval Air Station Alameda. As part of the instruction we were given while serving in the Bay Area, we were told we could not wear our uniform off the base. I was appalled! This is the United States of America, for crying out loud! I remembered as a kid how proud I was when my step father (a WWII Marine) would pull over and offer a ride to a military member hitch-hiking home on leave.

Now, I’m all about standing on principle and being prepared to take the heat if your view is not well received. So if the Berkeley City Council truly believed the presence of the Marine Corps Recruiting Office was undesirable, then fine. They should be prepared to count the cost. How interesting, then, that the Berkeley City Council has seen the error of their ways! But have they really? Or have they simply felt the heat of outraged state and federal politicians who have introduced the Semper Fi Act which would rescind more than two million dollars of federal funds to the City of Berkeley. This is when you find out if your principles mean something.

This morning I received a newspaper article forwarded in an e-mail by my retired Marine colonel brother stating that lawmakers are still going to pull the financial plug on Berkeley despite their half-baked apologies to no one in particular. The article reports that, “The new statement – written by Mayor Tom Bates and council members Max Anderson, Linda Maio and Darryl Moore – said the council opposes ‘the recruitment of our young people into this war,’ yet emphasizes that ‘we deeply respect and support the men and women in our armed forces.’” Oh please! This is so weak and predictable. May I remind the Berkeley council members that we have had an All-Volunteer Military for more than thirty years! Young people who join the military today do so voluntarily. In a freedom-loving, democratic republic, we call this “choice.” Get used to it.

Just recently I ran across a poem written by Navy corpsman Robert L. Owens, who is currently serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. It is entitled: Bury Me Next to a Marine.

“Bury me next to a Marine, when my time has come to an end;
So I can spend eternity, beside my brother and friend.

I’ve served beside him for years, and they’ve inspired me every day.
They’ve never asked for anything, so a debt I can never repay.

None of them served for glory, none for money or fame.
But they’ve served in every clime and place, heroes with but one name.

No one will ever outdo them, their honor is never outdone.
They will all go down in history, as America’s favorite sons.

Marines will never fail you, and their guard will never cease.
Please bury me next to a Marine, so I may rest in peace.”

City Council Member, Gordon Wozniak, said city leaders need to apologize to the Marines. “This issue is not the war,” he said. “It’s what the City Council did. Individuals have the right to choose and we should not impede that. We’ve embarrassed our city.”

Councilman Wozniak closed his comments with this clincher. “To err is human, but to really screw up, it takes the Berkeley City Council.” Good for Councilman Wozniak!

I rather liked my brother’s closing comments in a letter he sent to the Berkeley City Council on February 4. He said, “Should any of you on the Berkeley City Council ever want to visit my little village of Great Falls, Virginia, please know, with the exception of Mr. Wozniak, that I will consider you an ‘uninvited and unwelcome intruder.’ I think the vast majority of Americans share my revulsion at your lack of leadership and fundamental failure of courage.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

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