Ex-Marines, Former Marines or just Marines?

21 November 2016

I wrote about this topic 3 years ago in How To Address A U.S. Marine and wanted to touch on this again after seeing the term “ex-Marine” being used regularly in the news media.

Just this morning I was reading an article on the Detroit TV 4 news website about a Gold Star family who was disrespected on a plane that had to wait for them while en route to pick up their son who was killed in the line of duty and the father of the soldier was a Marine, but the TV station wrote that he was an “ex-Marine”.

I politely tweeted back to the station that it should be corrected, then waited about an hour and decided that a phone call to the station might effect a better response. I called the station and politely informed them that there are no ex-Marines and why that was. The lady on the other end said she’d pass it on.

Just like “ex” there are no “former” Marines either. It’s basically one and the same.

A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago – there’s no such thing as a former Marine. You’re a Marine, just in a different uniform and you’re in a different phase of your life.  But you’ll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There’s no such thing as a former Marine.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos

I understand when civilians use the term that they almost never intend to be disrespectful when saying “ex” or “former” but there are some Marines who will take offense to it since the term “ex” carries a negative connotation with it implying that the Marine did something wrong or lost what he earned many years ago.

Marines have done and achieved something that the overwhelming majority of the population either will not or cannot do and thus have earned the title U.S. Marine. That is something that cannot be taken away from you, no matter if you’re actively serving or have been out of the service for many years. It’s a difficult achievement and when a person earns it they really earn it and deserve to be called a Marine for the rest of their life.

It does bother me somewhat when I see the news media improperly use the term in their stories since they are professional organizations and professional journalists who should be doing their homework and vetting their facts. Even Colonel Oliver North addressed the issue on the Fox News network several years ago.

“The expression “once a Marine – always a Marine” is hammered into every recruit who makes it through boot camp at either Parris Island or San Diego.,” said FOX News contributor retired Marine Corps Col. Oliver North. “It is an expression derived from the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis” which means “Always Faithful” in Latin.

That was on national TV and I’d like to think that news organizations around the country would have picked up on it and remembered it. They like to tout that they have respect for the military and its veteran’s, but don’t always take the time to get the details just right.

I am in hopes that WDIV TV 4 will update their web page with the correction and show this Marine the respect he has earned.

As of the time of this post the story has yet to be corrected.

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