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carlson CHRIS


(Editors note: The following is condensed from remarks delivered at the retirement of the author’s cousin, Colonel F. Paul Briggs, from the U.S. Marine Corps, ten years ago.)

Thirty years ago the Briggs family turned over to the Corps a young boy. Today the Corps is handing back to us the man, and what a fine man he is. All too often in this too-fixated-on-political-correctness society we’ve become there is a tendency to denigrate the whole notion of manhood, to disparage the idea that one of life’s noblest goals is to become a real man, or a real woman, responsible and accountable for one’s actions, able to meet life’s challenges with bravery not fear, able to chart a course in a life that is worth living because it is lived for others, not just self.

Thank God the Corps understands still that one of its missions is to mold young boys, and young girls, into men and women, proud of who they are, proud of what they accomplish, proud of their country; people who know it is better to serve than be served, people who recognize that the freedoms we have are worth fighting, and yes, dying for; people who cherish notions that should never become old-fashioned, like duty and honor.

The Colonel personifies all that a Marine is and should be. He exemplifies each day the three “D’s”: Dedication, discipline and devotion.

He dedicated himself when young to becoming a Marine. I can still see him running seven to ten miles a day wherever he had to go in Pocatello, while attending Idaho State University, eschewing the notion of driving a car because he had decided he was going to be a Marine and he knew Marines are incredibly fit. And even today rather than drive to work he still eschews a car and bikes the ten miles from his home to the Pentagon. That’s dedication.

He’s always been incredibly disciplined. When backpacking in Idaho’s rugged Sawtooths, or the White Clouds, or the Bighorn Crags, each morning the routine was the same: rise early, wash up, brush and floss the teeth, shave, do your calisthenics, maintain the right appearance—no matter how far back in the wilderness we were, no matter how hot and dusty the trails had been. That’s discipline.

Most of all, though, what has stood out over the years has been his deep devotion to what he holds dear: his devotion to the Corps—a constant walking, talking apostle who quietly proselytized by example; his devotion to his family, always keeping in touch, always sensitive to their needs; his devotion to his wife whose steadfast support has always been invaluable as he performed his duties; his devotion to his country, his ability to articulate why we are a great nation, what separates us from the rest of the world, what makes us the great democracy we are, what the Federalist Papers were about, what is so sacred about our Constitution; and, his devotion to the Almighty, to whom he has always given thanks for his blessings. That’s devotion personified.

He is truly one of the few and the proud.

We all know we live in especially dangerous and difficult times. The Colonel, however, is a part of that thin but great wall that stands between our society, with all its flaws, and the anarchy and insanity that dogs so much of the rest of the world. To all Marines the notion that there is honor in life, both personal and that of a nation, and that both are absolutely worth defending at all costs, is one of those divinely inspired notions that make all Marines so truly special.

All who serve know in their hearts what our forefathers wrought is worth standing up for against all enemies in all forms, internal as well as external, so-called friend as well as avowed foe. Each person wearing a uniform knows he or she is part of that last line of defense literally of Western Civilization itself. Those in uniform know they are the men and women who defend and champion the sanctity of life, who defend a country that rather than obscure the difference between combatants and non-combatants goes to extraordinary lengths to maintain and respect that distinction.

All those in uniform are truly the ones who defend free speech and free inquiry, defend government of, by and for the people. Those in uniform are the individuals, singularly and collectively, who proudly defend a tradition so steeped in the presence of the Almighty it never needs to force others in His name.

And all who wear a uniform know the greatest prize they carry is their sense of honor, that each to varying degrees has sacrificed to obtain something that is earned, not given. This is their collective gift of combined strength to a nation that sorely needs it.

Today, we welcome back into our arms the man hundreds of others in the Corps, and in other uniforms, helped to forge. He is a true person of honor, and we say from the bottom of our grateful hearts: Thank you.

Chris Carlson is a writer at Medimont, Idaho.

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