A Southerner Speaks

I have always been proud of my time spent as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. I served in the Republic of Vietnam in 1969 and, while I was certainly no “John Wayne” type, I tried to do my duty to the best of my ability and I did bring all of my platoon out of Vietnam alive.

This past summer, the son of a frend of mine was very ‘gung ho’ about joining the Marines and asked my opinion, which I tried to give as honestly as possible, warts and all. I don’t know if my discussions had any influence on him, but he enlisted, completed all of the pre-enlistment tests and physical exams and went to all of the pre-enlistment meetings. To say the least, he was very excited about serving his country in the Corps.

Shortly before he left Nashville for boot camp, he was told he could not serve his country because he had a Confederate Battle Flag tattooed on his shoulder in an area that would be completely covered by a t-shirt, and certainly by his uniform.

When informed of this, I went to the local recruiting station that had processed this young man to see if I were getting the entire story. The recruiter, a staff sergeant, told me, “Yes, sir. The Marine Corps considers the Confederate Flag a ‘hate symbol,’ but if the young man in question had a state or U.S. flag tattoo, that would be acceptable.”

I informed the young sergeant that my family had defended the State of Tennessee (also his home state) against a sadistic invasion under that flag and to call our sacred flag of honour a ‘hate symbol was an insult to ALL southerners, but especially to those southereners who had risked or even given their lives in service to the Marine Corps. Southerners had served at Belleau Woods, at Taraw and Iwo Jima, at Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir, and at Khe Sahn and Hue City, but now we are no longer wanted in the politically-correct don’t-offend-any-minorities military? (This was just prior to the Fort Hood massacre)

He was polite, even sympathetic, but said the flag policy was a Marine Corps policy from Headquarters Marine Corps and not a local decision. After informing the sergeant that it seemed to me that our military was building a mercenary force of illegal aliens while rejecting native-born Americans in order to have a ready force to turn, without question, on American citizens, I asked the sergeant if he had taken out the trash yet. He replied that he hadn’t.

I then said, “Please add these to the day’s garbage,” and returned my lieutenant’s bars, my gold and silver Marine Corps emblem from my dress blues, my shooting badges and my Vietnam ribbons.
I, like many of you, have always been told, “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” and “There are no ex-Marines, only former Marines,” but for me that is no longer true.

I was born in the South. I was raised here. I raised my family in the South and some day, God-willing, I hope to be buried in the native soil of our Southern homeland. I have always considered myself a Southerner first, and will remain so, despite any other organization that I may temporarily join.

I will never make a critical remark about a veteran, from any branch of the service, but from now on, I will do everything in my power to discourage any Southern young man, or lady, from becoming a future veteran. I am now an ex-Marine.

Gene Andrews ex-Marine, 1st Lieutenant 3rd Marine division Vietnam

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