Secretary of the Navy Remarks as Prepared, Arlington Cemetery Wreath Laying, Nov. 10.
10 Nov 2023

Good morning everyone! Lieutenant General Olson, thank you for inviting me to be a part of this morning’s ceremony to celebrate 248 years of service to our nation by our Marine Corps.

While General Smith could not join us, he remains in our thoughts and prayers as we continue to wish for his speedy recovery. I can tell you he is eager to get back to work advocating for our Marines and their families stationed around the globe.

Lieutenant General Shutler, Major General Cox, Major General Lake, Major General Hartsell, Colonel Barnum, thank you, gentlemen, for joining us this morning, and for your decades of service to the Corps, and to our nation.

Finally, I would like to extend a special thanks to all of our Marines, past and present, who are here with us today to mark another birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

Our gathering place this morning—the United States Marine Corps War Memorial—is indeed a very special to me. It is where I took my oath of office as the 78th Secretary of the Navy. It is the spot where I promote the Marines assigned to my immediate staff.

Most of all, it is a poignant reminder of the strength, the courage, the loyalty, and the love for country that has defined the service of every Marine since November 10th, 1775.

While this memorial depicts the flag raising at Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima, the names and dates of wars fought by our Marines are inscribed on its base, and that list is not short.

Since the founding of our nation, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli,” from island hopping in the Pacific and the battlefields of Europe during World War II, from the mountains of Korea to the jungles of Vietnam, from the deserts of Iraq to the rough terrain of Afghanistan, our Marine Corps has always been “first to fight for right and freedom.”

Time and time again, our Marines have stood up to tyranny, to terrorism, and to oppressive regimes, defending the rights of millions of men, women, and children around the world.

Three weeks ago, I was in Jacksonville, North Carolina for a memorial ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Beirut Bombing, an act of terrorism that took the lives of 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers. I had the privilege of meeting with the Gold Star Families and Veterans of Battalion Landing Team 1-8—the unit that bore the brunt of the casualties—and listened to their stories about those Marines and Sailors we lost.

During that same trip, I was afforded the opportunity to meet with the Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which includes Battalion Landing Team 1-8, “The Beirut Battalion.”

These men and women—Marines and Sailors—are preparing to deploy into a world marked by active conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, at a time when the rules-based international order that has underpinned the relative stability and prosperity of the last eighty years is being challenged by China, Russia, North Korea, and others.

While the Marines of the 24th MEU are equipped, trained, and dressed differently than those first two battalions raised by the Continental Congress in 1775, their ethos, their esprit de corps, and their love of country remains the same.

Now, more than ever, our Nation needs a strong Marine Corps to deter our adversaries around the globe, and if necessary, prevail in conflict.

And I have no doubt that our Marines today are ready to successfully execute every mission they are given, just as they have always done for the last 248 years.

May God continue to watch over our Marine Corps, our Veterans, their families, and the families of those Marines our nation has lost, but will never forget.

Semper Fidelis.