Steve Barnes Speech to the Marines
Summary of “Steve Barnes Speech to the Marines”
Attorney Steve Barnes gives speech to United States Marines.
Steve Barnes Speaks to Marines – Marine Appreciation Day
I would like to introduce our guest speaker, Major Steve Barnes, United States Marine Corps Reserves. Many of you know Major Barnes. Many of you have probably seen him on TV, maybe seen his billboard, maybe seen a billboard out in the community. He is a distinguished litigator in our community. Major Barnes was born in Buffalo, New York, and is a graduate of Bishop Timon High School. After his graduation from the University of Buffalo with his undergraduate degree, Major Barnes continued his education and graduated from the University of Buffalo Law School. In June of 1984, Major Barnes was commissioned to Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Then, Second Lieutenant Barnes attended the Basic School of Quantico, Virginia, and the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he graduated as the honor graduate. Major Barnes’ active duty career was spent at Marine Corps base at Okinawa and Marine Corps base, Camp Pendleton, California working as a Staff Judge Advocate. In September, 1987, Major Barnes left active duty and joined the Marine Corps Reserves where he served as a Riffle Platoon Commander with India Company, Third Battalion, 25th Marines. After his tour with Company I, Major Barnes was assigned with the Eighth Tank Battalion in Rochester, and subsequently deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Major Barnes served with the Eighth Tank Battalion during the main tank battle against the Iraqi Republican Guard in February, 1991. Major Barnes was promoted to his current rank on April 1st of 1991, and subsequently left the Marine Corps Reserves to continue with his legal practice. Major Barnes is currently principal trial lawyer and partner with the Cellino & Barnes law firm headquartered here in Buffalo, New York. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to introduce our guest speaker, Major
Thank you Major Martin and good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming out here on this hot summer day. It’s a bit awesome to be, just be speaking to you in the shadow of these winners of the Medals of Honor, and I must tell you that I am truly proud and humbled to have been asked to speak to you on this Marine Appreciation Day. It’s easy to say that we appreciate someone or something, but the stark reality is that the appreciation that all of us, everybody in this country owes to the United States Marine Corps is an appreciation for our country’s very existence and for our way of life as we know it. And this is true irrespective of whatever your political inclinations might be, whatever political party you may or may not belong to and irrespective of whoever you may be supporting in the current campaign for the presidency, because Marines don’t argue about should we or should we not.
For Marines, the mission is everything, and it has been that way since 10 November 1775 when the Second Continental Congress authorized two battalions of Marines to act as a landing force with the fleet. And although it has always been the smallest of the military services, for the past two hundred thirty three (233) years, the Marine Corps has been designed to act as the tip of the American military spear because the Marine Corps is always deployed first and quickly, and that is because Marines have been trained to run to the sound of the guns. Now that may sound counterintuitive in terms of survival or self-preservation, but that’s what Marines do and that is why we are the Nation’s first line of defense. Literally from the first day that a young recruit gets off of that bus at Paris Island or San Diego, future Marines learn that the Marine Corps is all about downplaying the importance of the individual, and playing up the importance of the group and teamwork. And the reason for that is very simple because, the question of the accomplishment of the mission, the question of whether you are going to live or die is not going to depend upon what some individual Marine does. Those questions are going to be determined by the guys to your right and the guys to your left, and how well that team works together. The Marine Corps only has two basic missions: to make Marines and to locate, close with and destroy the enemy. The job of Marines has always been to get there first, ready to fight, and if necessary, ready to kill. We pride ourselves on mission accomplishment, to pick up, move out, draw fire, shape the battlefield, plant the flag, and that is the way that it has been since the first colonial Marines fought against the British during the Revolutionary War and it continues so today in the ongoing fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marines embrace an aggressive warrior ethos that sets them apart from any other military organization in the world. And I don’t know if it was specifically designed that way or if it is something that evolved over time, but Marines have a definite identity, that we are Marines. We are distinctly different. Marines are connected to their history and to those who came before them. Marines learn their history and the traditions of the Marine Corps. They understand what it means to be a Marine today and what it meant to be a Marine a hundred years ago and before. They understand that they cannot allow themselves to disappoint those who have gone before them. They understand that they can never allow the legacy to die. That’s why history is so important. It is a part of our ethos, a part of who we are.
For the first one hundred fifty (150) years of our existence, Marines distinguished themselves in a vast array of regional conflicts all over the world. In the words of our beloved anthem, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. But it was in the first World War that Marines first earned the reputation as first to fight and this was a worldwide reputation that they earned, and they earned it as they charged through the wheat fields into the woods in a place in France that we now know as Belleau Wood. It was at that great battle in 1918, that the Marine Corps turned the tide of the War as they forwarded a major German offensive directed against the capital of France, Paris. The Marines attacked the woods six times before they were able to expel the Germans. It was at Belleau Wood that Marine legend, Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daley, known by every Marine, prompted his men forward with the most famous quotation in the history of the Marine Corps, “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever.” Belleau Wood was a turning point in the first World War and it was a turning point for the Marines. Because it was on that single day in 1918 that we lost more Marines than all of the Marines that had been lost in the entire one hundred sixty seven (167) year period that preceded it. Belleau Wood is one of three great touchtone battles for the Marine Corps.
The other two are Iwo Jima in 1945 and, despite the catastrophic failure of the CIA to warn of the imminent invasion by the Chinese in Korea in 1950. The epic battle of the Chosin Reservoir in 1950. It was at the Chosin Reservoir that Brigadier General Chesty Puller’s Marines repulsed an attack by 400,000 Chinese over that border that, by rights, should have driven any lesser force into the frozen sea.
But I personally have always thought that perhaps even more so than the other two battles, Iwo Jima embodied so much of what our Corps is about. It was a hellacious thirty six (36) day battle during which we lost 26,000 Marines, killed or wounded. In an event that could be seen by every Japanese soldier on Iwo, an event that was captured by what perhaps turned out to be the most famous photograph in the history of the world, five Marines and one Navy Corpsman raised the flag on Mount Suribachi on the fourth day of the battle. That image of the flag being raised on Suribachi captures the ethos of the Marine Corps, a team of warriors raising the flag on what was a very exposed battlefield. This was an icon for the entire war and it was an icon for the Marine Corps for decades to come; and it remains so, Marine camaraderie forged in blood. I am sure that many of you have seen the war memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., the great statue of the famous photograph. And carved into granite around the base of that monument are the names of so many battles over so many years, stretching back to the 1770s and the Revolutionary War. Every time I’ve seen that memorial, what is most striking to me about it is the blank spaces that are left below the names of the battles. Space has been left on that monument for the names of battles yet to be fought.
Every Marine who has ever served in combat comes back with at least a few things that he doesn’t want to talk about. I once talked to a veteran of the great World War II Battle of Tarawa, and he candidly told me that although he was proud to have served his country, he was not proud of many of the things he had to do to serve his country. Only a fool or a fraud talks romantically about war, and any Marine who has ever been on any battlefield knows that there is absolutely no glamour or romance associated with combat, and that is because it is impossible to convey the sickly sweet smell of decomposing human flesh, of charred corpses, of bodies buried in piles of rubble and in bomb craters. And it is impossible to convey the abject misery of the innocents who are invariably caught up in this maelstrom. I often get the sense that the general public doesn’t really want to know how the Marine Corps trains its Marines to deal with this hell on earth. But here is the dilemma, a liberal society needs to be defended, and sometimes it needs to be defended violently, and the people who are going to perform that defense have to like what they’re doing or else quite frankly, they’re not going to be very good at it.
The unfortunate but unvarnished truth is that there are situations that demand that the hard thing be done, and the sacrifices that Marines make to carry out this duty are not just physical. They are mental and they are spiritual, and the Marines carry the burden of this for the rest of their lives. The spirit of semper fidelis, always faithful, is something that lives in a man’s heart and never goes away.
In the 2-1/3 centuries of defending this nation, more than 40,000 Marines have died in battle, more than 200,000 have been wounded. It is that sacrifice that has created a brotherhood of Marine camaraderie that is real and palpable to any man or woman who has ever worn the uniform, but which unfortunately in our homogenized 21st century is frequently all too easy to forget. But I can say without question, that the greatest privilege that has ever been bestowed upon me in my entire life, is the privilege to wear this uniform.
Thank you Major Barnes.