Why Capitalize Marine?

Readers have gently pointed out to me that “marine” doesn’t need to be capitalized any more than “soldier” does. But I always capitalize the word when it refers to a branch of the U.S. military or a member of that branch.

Why? To show the enormous respect I have for the U.S. Marine Corps and its members. As I have noted frequently in my blog posts over the years, much of my professional life before I retired was spent on the battlefield supporting friendly troops in combat. I have reported how army commanding officers sometimes refused to act on the intelligence I was able to provide. I even coined a term for that dilemma: the Cassandra Effect. But never, not once, did the Marines fail to exploit of the information I was able to give them.

One of the reasons for the Marines’ willingness to use signals intelligence was the influence of an officer named Al Gray. Al started out as an enlisted man, went on to become an officer, a general, and, finally, commandant of the Marine Corps. Early in his military career, he was a signals intelligence specialist, so he knew the discipline well. When I first me him in the early 1960s in Vietnam, he was already a captain commanding combat forces. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, I kept running into him as we both crisscrossed Vietnam. When Saigon fell in 1975, it was Al Gray, now a colonel, who rescued me. He was kind enough to stay in touch with me after he became a general and even after taking over command the Marine Corps.

The two top priorities of General Gray—I stopped calling him “Al” when he became commandant—were his unit’s mission and the welfare of the men serving under him. He was famous for never asking his men to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He was a beloved leader and one of the most effective commanders that Marine Corps ever had.

In all my years of working with the military, the Marines gained my greatest respect. Not only did they exploit signals intelligence to the hilt, they proved over and over their effectiveness on the battlefield. They remained humble and civil even in their victories and moments of greatest glory. So I capitalize their name as a sign of my deep respect for them.

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