You Can Leave the Military, but It Never Really Leaves You

Ah, the title is so true.  I have written my concurrence with this idea in several past blog posts:  How serving in the military leaves an indelible mark, many times for the rest of one's life. 

One blog discussed my memories of the smells of the military.  Another was about the nuances of military grooming.  Still another dealt with how old (military) habits die hard.

Today member Ron Albers sent me an email I really like.  You may have seen it before floating around in an email.  I decided to look up the author to give due credit for this fabulous piece of work.  This article was written by journalist Ken Burger from the Charleston, South Carolina The Post and Courier newspaper, originally printed on March 10, 2010.

Mr. Burger does such a phenomenal job summing up what I think many of us feel. See if you don't agree, and be sure comment below.



The military is a comfort zone for anyone who has ever worn the uniform. It's a place where you know the rules and know they are enforced -- a place where everybody is busy, but not too busy to take care of business.

Because there exists behind the gates of every military facility an institutional understanding of respect, order, uniformity, accountability and dedication that becomes part of you and never, ever leaves you.

 Some may miss the fact that you always knew where you stood in the military, and who you were dealing with. That's because you could read somebody's uniform from 20 feet away and know the score.

 Service personnel wear their careers on their sleeves, so to speak. When you approach each other, you can read their name tag, examine their rank and, if they are in dress uniform, read their ribbons and know where they've served.

 Some may miss all those little things you take for granted when you're in the ranks, like breaking starch on a set of fatigues fresh from the laundry and standing in a perfectly straight line military formation that looks like a mirror as it stretches to the endless horizon.

 Some miss the sight of troops marching in the early morning mist, the sound of boot heels thumping in unison on the tarmac, the bark of drill instructors and the sing-song answers from the squads as they pass by in review.

 To romanticize military service is to be far removed from its reality, because it's very serious business -- especially in times of war.

 Some may even miss the salutes you would throw at officers and the crisp returns.

 Yes and even miss smell of jet fuel hanging heavily on the night air and the sound of engines roaring down runways and jets disappearing into the clouds.

 I know you just have to miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality that we all griped about, a masterful invention that bonded people more than they'll ever know or admit.

 Then there's the simple things you might miss such as people taking off their hats when they enter a building, speaking directly and clearly to others and never showing disrespect for rank, race, religion or gender.

 You may miss being a small cog in a machine so complex it constantly circumnavigates the Earth and so simple it feeds everyone on time, three times a day, on the ground, in the air or at sea.

 Mostly, I don't know anyone who has served who totally regrets it, and doesn't feel a sense of pride when they think back at the world they left behind with their youth.

 Yes it's probably one time in your life on refection where you felt its something you loved -- and hated at the same time.

Face it guys & gals - we all miss some part of it (off duty as well !!)............Whether you had one tour or a career, it had a bearing on shaping your life."

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Comment by Ricardo Jacques on April 8, 2012 at 7:34pm

There has been a few ex-marines; a result of their actions or lack of.

Recently a few Marines were upset that Randy Orton was going to be in Marine 3.

Their main objection, was his deserting two time besides his dishonorable discharge.

For disobey a lawful order from a Marine Corps officer.

Having served in the Marine Corps for ten years, I could not see that Marine sergeant posting on the web that he would not obey orders from President Obama.


Some members of the military were charged with burning the Quran.

To us it might be a little thing, not so for the Afghans.

Besides pissing on dead afghans.

Regardless if they were our enemies.

These actions might place more in danger.

That alone would be reason for charging some under the UCMJ.

I would ask that Marine sergeant; do we now choose what orders to obey?

The military can not be ran as a popularity contest.

Times, many have gone out, knowing that they might not come back.

But still they went out, as they have done in all our wars.

A great number of Marines, that I have met since my time in the Marine Corps.

Still hold each other to our Marine Corps Core Values.

A dear friend and fellow Marine, once told me 'To thy own-self be true'.

There times to speak up but not disobedience to orders.

Members of the military cannot make their political views public.

There's orders and directives on what the military can or cannot place in the internet.

Failure to obey, will result in action taken against the one who disobey.

I sure a great number of Marine officers were not too happy showing up on somebody radar screen as the result of this Marine sergeant's action.

Semper Fidelis


Comment by Thomas R. Murrell on April 8, 2012 at 4:44pm

Well put, Ricardo. Throughout my life, I've met many Marines, both active and no longer active. I've never met an ex-Marine.

Comment by Ricardo Jacques on April 8, 2012 at 2:43pm

Something I placed elsewhere on some in the Marine Corps seeking the dismissal of a Marine Sergeant.

"Marine Corps Values;
The Marine Corps Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
Have gained increased prominence in recent years.
As an emphasis on performing morally on and off duty.
The concept of core values has been infiltrated into many aspects of Marine life.
Beginning in recruit training and continuing into combat.
These "warrior ethos" provide guidance to Marines in difficult ethics situations.
And as a reminder to provide good order and discipline.

A code of personal integrity, honor guides those who do the right thing when no one is looking.
It is not only a duty, but also a distinction, as those who possess honor are held in honor.
It's found in one's beliefs, but exhibited through one's actions.
Marines are held to the highest of standards, ethically and morally.
Marines are expected to act responsibly in a manner befitting the title they've earned.

When other principles are tested, it's courage that prevents them from crumbling.
It isn't ignoring fear, but being stronger than fear.
Courage is the guardian of all other values.
It is there when times are toughest, when difficult decisions have to be made.
It takes the form of mental, physical and ethical strength, and is found in the backbone of every Marine.

Commitment is the spirit of determination found in every Marine.
It is what compels Marines to serve our nation and the Corps.
And to continue on when others quit.
Commitment doesn't take breaks and it cannot be faked.
It measures and proves one's desire, dedication and faithfulness.
Becoming a United States Marine represents the highest level of commitment.

"When individuals become Marines.
They no longer represent themselves.
They represent their entire organization.

According to the Marine Corps core values card.
Honor is having integrity, responsibility and accountability.
Honor is upholding the name and values.
Of what an individual stands for.

The core values card states.
That courage is doing the right thing.
In the right way, for the right reason.

Commitment is being devoted to the Corps and to fellow Marines.

All three of the core values are equally important.
Different circumstances call for one to take precedence over the other two.
But in the end they all make up the mental and moral character of a Marine.

For more than 236 years, the Marine Corps.
Has remained the world’s finest fighting force,
Because of the strict standards Marines choose to uphold.

The pride that comes with honor, courage and commitment.
Is a pride that never fades, even years.
After a Marine leaves active duty.
The core values are the bedrock elements.
That make Marines stand out.
As the few and the proud in America."

Than we have;
Oath of Enlistment

I, ____________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;
And that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers.
Appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

My Note;
Somewhere among all these fancy words.
There reason for what the Marine Sergeant did.
But on the whole, there's reason for why some are seeking his dismissal.

The words of that enlistment state; I will obey the orders of the President of the United States.

Than there directives from the Department of Defense, the Pentagon and the Marine Corps.

On what can and cannot be posted on the internet.

I think these words say it best;
When individuals become Marines.
They no longer represent themselves.
They represent their entire organization."

Most after their service in the Marine Corps.

Will still live their Marine Corps Core Values.


Comment by Claudia Bartow on March 28, 2012 at 7:44pm
Thanks for your comment, Thomas.
You bring up an interesting point.....the social life one experiences in the military. Your unit members, etc. are like family. You eat together, work together, and live together, at least in the field/on ships/in training, etc.
Another reason why the military experience is so unique!
Comment by Thomas R. Murrell on March 28, 2012 at 8:45am

The writer makes a good point. There was a lot to like about being in the military, even if I didn't join voluntarily at the time.

One thing I missed the most after I got out was how, when moving into a new unit or duty assignment, I would be integrated into the social life of the unit as well as the mission of the unit. I didn't realize how important that was until I got out. Over the past 30+ years, I've worked for a variety of companies in a variety of settings. In each, I was integrated into the work, the mission if you will, of the organization that hired me. But I was never integrated into the social life of the people I worked with.

It's not that people weren't friendly, and it's not that I didn't make friends. But it was never the same as it was in the military. In the military, the people you live with or near are also in the military. You're brought into the social life in ways you never are in civilian life.

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