Constitutionally Right

The only way to predict the future is to create it.

Location: Yardley, PA (Bucks County), United States

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Making of a Marine - Philly Burbs

I usually feel a bit awkward when thanked for my military service since I gained a lot more from my 4+ years as a full-time Marine than I contributed. I always had very high goals and a lot of motivation, but just didn’t have the discipline and direction to make much of anything happen. The missing elements were provided courtesy of the United States Marine Corps which I’d like to explain so that others might benefit.
I would go to great lengths to get to the starting line only to fall flat on the first hurdle. The best example of this was making the cut for my college wrestling team probably as an experiment to see what can be made from raw untested desire to succeed. Being surrounded by some serious examples of accomplishment for a few years was my introduction to what it takes, but I eventually discovered that wishful thinking is not good enough. The first step, as explained by one of the finest coaches of all time, is often the most difficult which is being honest with the most important person to be honest with - yourself.
The next challenge was committing to the Marines upon graduation. There was some sort of unexplained desire to serve. My sense was that the greatest challenge and most intensive military experience would come from the Marine Corps.
The initial training ended up having a 40% graduation rate. My class consisted of Ivy League superstars, Olympic level athletes, prior Enlisted Marines who put themselves through college in their spare time and so on. There I was yet again surrounded by greatness, but I wasn’t one of them. The one element that all 40% of us shared was a total commitment to graduation before arriving and the entire training was founded on a thorough internalization of a 100% no-compromise version of integrity.
I met my 2 mentors at Camp Pendleton after over a year of training. The first immediately took me under his wing upon my arrival and berated me until I understood how competence and good humor are an extraordinary combination to lead young Marines with. Some of you might have known Brian Teeple (a fellow Neshaminy Maple Point grad from Levittown). He was the model Marine Officer who didn’t have to ever tell anyone how good he was. His humble presence and positive attitude explained everything.
The second was Gunnery Sergeant Aviu who taught the finer points of Marine Corps leadership to those who observed. He was a massive Hawaiian with a thick accent and medals up to the top of his left shoulder. His record suggested a bit of an anti-authority complex since he seemed to have dropped a few ranks along the way, but further investigation revealed more of an anti-incompetence complex. I learned everything I needed to know from him and promoting him to Master Sergeant was probably my greatest achievement.
Leadership is what defines the Marine Corps. Helping others to do their very best is accomplished by:
- Setting the example
- Keeping your word at all times
- Having the courage to stand up for what’s right especially if you’re the only one doing it
- Doing what’s right especially when no one’s watching
- Being on time
- Getting the job done without being told
- Being friendly and respectful
- Treating EVERYONE equally
- Being enthusiastic and encouraging others to do what they do best
- Being neat and clean
- Sharing unpleasant tasks
- Knowing that you’re doing something wrong if everyone likes you
- Putting the needs of others before your own
- Privately correcting others when they’re wrong
- Helping others when they’re in trouble
- Weighing the facts with good judgment
Two organizations that allow those who haven’t served to do so and for those who have served to continue to do so are The Travis Manion Foundation and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. They can be found at and (and briefly explained on my own blog at ). True leadership transcends the trivial into the realm of what’s really important to us all which is embodied with pure clarity by these organizations and others like them.
I can say with confidence that integrity is much less expensive than the cost of not having any and is certainly a path where you’ll never get lost. I’ve also observed that almost everyone can be afraid of the dark, but it’s a fear of the light that keeps many from reaching their fullest potential. And, without a doubt, the more you appreciate what you have the more you will have to appreciate.
But I think that the most important thing is that it’s our differences that make us what we are as a nation. Our differences are our strength best said by “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” And anyone who doesn’t like it can tell it to the Marines.



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