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Gen. Charles C. Krulak’s remarks at the Commandant’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball November / 13 / 2018

Retired Gen. Charles C. Krulak addressed personnel assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps and their guests during the Commandant’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball Nov. 10, 2018, the Corps’ 243rd birthday.

Krulak, the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps, discussed the relationship between the Marine Corps and the nation we serve. 

Transcription of his speech:

“Thank you very much. Please, sit down, sit down. Thank you very much. Thank you, I can’t tell you what an honor it is for Sandy and me to be here tonight. Those Marines in the room, know that we don’t take the word honor lightly so let me just say it again it is a great honor, a great honor to be here tonight.

“The last time I was on this floor in this very hotel, the guest of honor was Lieutenant General Victor H. ‘Brute’ Krulak and it was a very special night, but it is no more special than what we see here this evening. That night, our theme was the twin touchstones of our Corps, the touchstone of valor, warfighting, the touchstone of values. Values of which America looks to us and holds so dear.  When I think about the touchstone of valor, I am automatically drawn back to that iconic battle that our Commandant put up on the screen. Out of the crucible of the woods at Belleau Wood and out of the crucible of those wheat fields emerge what is today our modern-day Marine Corps. 

“Before Belleau Wood, we were thought of as a gendarmerie. We never fought at a level higher than a battalion and at that time major, but now pretty minor battle. After Belleau Wood, we were considered one of the world’s finest fighting organizations, and that reputation has stuck with us and been built upon by hundreds and hundreds of battles that we have fought and won over our storied history. So that today the American people understand the touchstone of valor. They believe in it. They know that when the whistle blows, their Marines are going to don their helmets, they are going to put on their flak jackets, they are going to grab a weapon and they are going to march to the sound of the guns and smell of cordite and they are going to fight and they are going to win!

“The American people know that. The American people know that and they respect it and they respect it very deeply. But what the American people cherish, what they cherish is our values. They believe that the Marine corps is the epitome of all that is good about America and all that is good about American youth; that we’re a keeper of a flame and that flame is a value system, and that value system stands for everything. It is sometimes attacked. We sometimes go astray a little bit.  But we always come back to our core values of honor, courage, and commitment, and the American people know that. And if I were a poet, which I am not, and I was writing about the Marine Corps, I would say that the Marine Corps was like Caesar’s 10th Legion, standing at the gates of Rome, defending the Republic; or the 300 Spartans at the Gates of Fire at Thermopylae standing for their nation-state.

“That is how, in their hearts, the American people think of us and the values that we hold so dear of honor, courage, and commitment.

“Now, I know, because I was an action officer at Headquarters, Marine Corps, that there are probably some in the audience right now saying, well you know General, I don’t feel like I am part of Caesar’s 10th Legion and I don’t feel like I’m a Spartan at the Gate of Fire. I am working my tail off, 10 or 11 hours a day. Working hard issues, writing papers, answering questions, going out, trying to get that extra dollar from the Secretary of the Navy.  And then at the end of that 11-hour day, you get in the car and, you know, you are doing a round trip for three hours a day.  And if you are lucky on the weekend you actually get to be with your family, but during that time, what happens?

“You get a phone call from a friend in the Fleet Marine Force, or a friend at school, or a friend at a post or station and they are telling you all the great things they are doing.  Been there, done that and got the t-shirt. 

“Except I discovered something. I really discovered something. That the fight within the beltway is every bit as important as the fight outside the beltway. And don’t ever forget it. Your attention to duty, your diligence, your resilience, goes to meet a requirement laid upon us by the second session of the 82nd Congress of this great country of ours, where the Congress – the Congress – 66 years ago, wrote the Marine Corps into law.

“They wrote our structure into law and they actually put…I don’t know if most people even understand this, but they put a “head strength” cap on us. A “head strength” cap on us. But what they really did was they wrote in that conference language the reason they have a Corps is because we need a force that is most ready when the nation is least ready. Most ready when the nation is least ready.

“Now, people think we actually wrote that. We didn’t. Honest to God, you can look at the second session 82nd Congress conference report. The Congress wrote it.  And we belong to the Congress and we always look to the Congress unabashedly.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t talk to the spouses. You all are the best-kept secret in the Marine Corps. Seriously, you all, you all are the combat multipliers. Without you, your Marine could do very little. We don’t look to you as your service, we look to you as your sacrifice. To hell with service. Your sacrifice, your sacrifice enables our Marines to go in harm’s way and God bless you. My wife and I, this is not just some old Commandant standing up on the stage giving you platitudes, my wife and I love you, and we spent four years thinking about the family and I know your Commandant and I know his lady are doing the same thing.  So if you ever think for a minute you are not appreciated, please think again. You are the combat multiplier.

“Finally, I know I am taking a lot of time, finally, I mentioned I was on the stage with my dad and my dad was a real believer in the touchstones of valor and the touchstone of values. And in the book, “First to Fight,” he laid out a thesis that I’m going to read to you.  It will just take a very short time, but I want to think about what he is saying because they hold true today and will hold true tomorrow. Permit me to read this:

‘We exist today. We flourish today, not because of who we know we are or what we know we can do, but because of what the grassroots of our country believes we are and believes we can do.  The American people believe that Marines are downright good for the country, that Marines are forms of masters of an unfailing alchemy which converts un-oriented youth into proud, self-reliant, stable citizens. Citizens into whose hands the nation’s affairs may safely be entrusted. And likewise, should the people ever lose that conviction as a result of our failure to meet their high, almost spiritual standards, the Marine Corps will quickly disappear. Likewise, should the people ever lose that conviction as a result of our failure to meet their high, almost spiritual standards, the Marine Corps will quickly disappear.’

“You all are the people in this room will ensure that our precious Corps and the touchstone of valor and touchstone of values will not cease, and the Marine Corps will never disappear. Thank you much, and happy birthday.”

Headquarters Marine Corps