America, This is Your Marine Corps

Subject: America, This is Your Marine Corps
From: Benjamin Stroh
Date: 14 Apr 2020

America, this is Your Marine Corps

I feel like most of America has this false image of Marines. When you become one, and you return home for the first time, it's like being a superhero. People who didn't even know you existed suddenly become very friendly, and almost everyone seems to offer their respect in a way you've never seen. Most folks assume you're a badass killer, a man/woman not to be trifled with.

For many Marines—this couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is the truth: Marines are not what you think they are. Some are—indeed—exemplary men and women, yet they do not represent the whole. There are mediocre Marines...and terrible ones.

First thing that comes to mind is the recruiters. What they don't tell you is—no matter what you're looking for—you probably won't find it in the military. Recruiters can and will say almost anything in order to get someone to join, and all they do is hone that skill. They are experts at convincing/tricking young high school students and graduates into signing on the dotted line.

There's a lot of dishonesty. The guarantees are plentiful. The lies are ubiquitous. They'll say that there's brotherhood to be found, and honor in the commitment. Honestly, they'll probably ask you what you're looking for and will promise it. You want to be a part of something bigger than yourself? Done. You want a challenge? You'll get one. But, as someone that's seen a good chunk of the different areas of the modern Marine won't find much of anything in it besides pure frustration and loneliness. That's why the entire U.S. military is currently struggling with retention issues, especially in first-term enlisted.

As far as "brotherhood" goes—a staggering amount of friendships are superficial. Far and wide there is tale of drunken marines proclaiming their allegiance to their brothers—only to sell them out when the going gets tough. You'll see the same men that condemn their young marines for causing trouble and consuming too much alcohol, only to get busted for drinking and driving the following weekend. The only difference is that the higher-ups get a slap on the wrist, and the young marines get put on restriction (basically house arrest), reduced pay, or even kicked out.

These men are the same men that will preach about doing the right thing—about integrity—only to get busted for cheating physical standards. Cheating on their wives, even. Occasions such as these are so frequent that they are running jokes in the Marines.

These are the same men that consistently are not there when their men need them, which could be why suicide is such a problem in the corps. I personally know of at least two men that attempted suicide while I was in. Of the two, one was successful—and it took three days for someone to realize he was missing. This may not sound like much, but in the corps, your friends and coworkers generally live in the same building, and almost everyone under 25 has at least one roommate.

Towards the end of my enlistment, I got the chance to do some work with the military police. Never in my life would I have guessed that domestic violence would be so prevalent in the military, especially the corps. It’s the most frequent call that the MP’s (military police) get, and they get nasty. Surprisingly, it comes from both sides, as on one occasion, we were called in for a guy that would be subsequently knocked out cold by his cast-iron-skillet wielding spouse. As if the domestic violence wasn’t enough: the MPs regularly fail to properly report or investigate, leading to conflicts going on longer than they should.

Never would I have guessed I'd see Marines go down for doing drugs, either. The corps has a zero-tolerance drug policy. No exceptions. You get caught; you get the boot. Still, I saw two men from my own platoon (immediate coworkers, usually a group of about 30-60 men that do almost everything together) go down for marijuana. It’s not just weed, either. In the last paragraph, I spoke about my time with the military police. What I did not mention was one occasion there was suspicion of cocaine existing in the barracks (think dormitory for about 100-200). Not only was the cocaine found, but some steroids as well.

Eleven men ended up going down as a result.

“Gear adrift is gear a-gift" and “there’s only one thief in the Marine Corps. Everyone else is trying to get their shit back” are extremely common sayings in the corps. They seem to contribute to the generally accepted mentality that larceny is acceptable if you’ve already been stolen from. Having lost or stolen gear in the corps is so common that, by the time you’re on your way out, it’s not even a surprise when items turn up missing. To clarify, this ideology mostly applies to gear issued by the corps, and not personally owned items.

This is the Marine Corps that I saw. It wasn’t merely different than the image I had been given—it was a completely different picture. I hope that, for those of you thinking of joining, maybe you’ll look a little deeper into what the corps actually is, instead of letting it ride its reputation or what the recruiters may tell you. And for the rest of America, maybe now you’ll be able to see that sometimes...the Marine Corps isn’t what you think it is.

-Benjamin Stroh