If you desire peace, prepare for war.
War — the preparation for it, the deterrence of it and the remembrance of it — is the main theme running through the nine-minute video released Oct. 27, in a year when the U.S. military isn’t directly engaged in waging war.
The birthday video will be played at the annual balls across the globe marking the anniversary of the Marine Corps’ Nov. 10, 1775, founding.
The early shots of the video depict action-packed Marine Corps training and operations. Then the screen goes black.
“If I was gonna die, I was gonna die with my boots on,” a man’s voice says. “Let’s do it.”
The video features several veterans and leaders discussing combat and the Marine Corps’ ethos.
“If you think combat is great, then you haven’t been there,” said retired Gen. Walter Boomer, a two-time Vietnam War Silver Star recipient.
Sgt. Maj. David Wilson, the top enlisted Marine at II Marine Expeditionary Force, recounts a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq, in which a tracer round barely penetrated the skin on a lieutenant’s back, carving a line in flesh.
“Crazy thing was that when he was a young enlisted Marine, he got a tattoo on his back that said ‘Marine,’” Wilson says. “And the tracer underlined the word ‘Marine.’”
“That’s the kind of story that people won’t believe unless you show it to ‘em,” he said.
There’s a shoutout to the docs, enlisted Navy medical personnel who often serve in Marine units.
“I owe my life to Navy corpsmen,” said retired 1st Sgt. William McDowell, a three-time Purple Heart recipient who was in the first group of Black men to join the Marine Corps. “Those are unsung heroes.”
The video makes much of the Marine Corps’ high standards for training, portraying them as the basis of success in battle.
“If you don’t think these Marines are working every single day to better their craft and skills, you got another thing coming,” 1st Sgt. Jennifer Morales says.
Commandant Gen. Eric Smith repeatedly has underscored the importance of standards, including in his written birthday message released Oct. 18.
The video was released days before Smith was hospitalized for a medical emergency on Oct. 29. The top Marine general was “making excellent progress” following the sudden cardiac arrest that has scrambled the Marine Corps’ chain of command, the Marine Corps finally confirmed Friday.
There’s a somber moment honoring Marines who have fought and died, with a particular emphasis on the 1982–1984 peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. The 40th anniversary of the bombing in Beirut that killed 220 Marines was Oct. 23.
As the video nears conclusion, Smith and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlos Ruiz express pride in “the few and the proud,” with Smith calling Marines “the pinnacle of professional warriors.”
But Cpl. Jack Riley, a Vietnam veteran who received a Silver Star in 2022 for valor in a 1967 battle in Vietnam, gets the last word.
“We’re Marines till we die,” Riley says.
He pauses, and the dramatic music escalates. “And we require a two-week notice for that.”
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.