[October 14, 2019] You will them throughout airports as you travel across the United States, in train stations, and on buses. Members of the U.S. Marine Corps are easy to spot by the way they hold themselves, dress, and speak. But there is one thing that is also easy to “see.” The Marines Corps values and their slogans! One of my favorites is Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.
Several years ago on a sunny day back in February, I was in Washington, D.C. to meet with the state representatives of New Jersey. Since moving here, my attendance is occasionally requested by Mission Readiness; the non-profit that I worth with to advocate for young children. While walking through the halls of the Longworth House Office Building, I came upon a group U.S. Marines, both young men and women, who were on tour.
I stopped briefly to speak with them and to thank them for their service. “Semper Fi, sir,” was the first thing one of them said to me. These young Marines looked neat, clean, and were alert to their surroundings. I asked why they were in this building today. One of the Marines – who looked like he was 15 years old – said that they had been invited to tour Washington D.C. by U.S. President George W. Bush. They had met the President during his presidency while he was visiting Iraq.
A U.S. President (current or past) is not in the habit of inviting just a bunch of service members on a tour so my curiosity was up. The back story was that they had been part of a supply unit that had been ambushed by insurgents out west of Fallujah, Iraq. At the time, the oldest was 19 but each had the sense to act as a team and aggressively return fire on a group of insurgents. Not only that but they called in a USMC Cobra gunship and a Medevac. This accidental engagement broke up a larger insurgent attack on a nearby base, giving the Marines time to react and suppress the attack early. Lives were saved.
These young Marines improvised a quick defense, adapted to the ambush, and overcame it quickly. For this they were recognized by George W. Bush during one of his visits to Iraq. Do we see young men and women like this walking the streets of American today? Some will say the answer is probably ‘no.’ But there are Marines, as well as their brothers and sisters in the other military services, that can and do improvise, adapt, and overcome.
So often repeated, this phrase is commonly heard from U.S. Marines when a challenging situation arises. I was proud to speak with this group of Marines and hear their story of bravery at a time when most young people would likely just pee their pants.