Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So, "There Are No ex-Marines" Huh?

So, "There Are No ex-Marines" Huh?
July 2007

There has been a rash of news articles lately where ex-Marines or Soldiers present at the scene during shootings, robberies, etc. have taken out the perpetrator. Usually the article, in the case of Marines, refers to the Marine as an "ex-Marine,"

Where does this term "ex-Marine come from? Well, I personally and clearly recall that it was in vogue just after WW II and long after. When someone was referred to as an ex-Marine, it was with pride and admiration of his having been a U.S. Marine! The old saying, "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" went hand-in-hand, and there was no contradiction in terms. Although the term has apparently gone out of use within the active duty establishment, it continues to be used today in the media, etc.

Nowadays, in cases where the Marine is a non-active duty Marine, and called an ex-Marine,. the hue and cry soon goes up by present day Marines that "there are no ex-Marines," and that the individual should be referred to, usually, as a "former" Marine. There are exceptions to this too, where the use of the word former is also found unacceptable by some present day Marines. And, the "Once A Marine..."saying itself is now even used as evidence that there are no ex-Marines.

And so, if correct, just where does authority/reason for not using the old term any longer come from? In any case, there is no directive that forbids the use of the term, just personal opinion alone being the foundation of this brouhaha. Monkey-see, monkey-do--somebody starts it, and the herd picks up the beat and marches on.

I am here to tell you that all this "no ex-Marines" nonsense is just plain bullshit!

During my own active duty as a Marine--1952-1972--I served with numerous pre--WW II, WW II, and Korean War Marines who routinely and proudly referred to discharged Marines, etc. as ex-Marines. The ex-Marine label, back in those days, bore no negative connotation. Why would it, both ex and former mean practically the same thing.

Myself, I regard The Old Corps as those years between the wars, as outlined in BGen Robert H. Williams's book, The Old Corps. I may not be Old Corps, but at least I rubbed elbows w/many of them when I was a PFC and I did duty w/many of them who were still then on active duty.

Not sure exactly when and where things changed regarding this terminology, my guess is sometime subsequent to the early 1970s. Now, however, things have gone even further in that boot Marines apparently now regard the term "ex-Marine" as a derogatory term they assign to Marines they judge as unworthy of the title Marine; Sgt Lee Oswald and Col John Murtha come immediately to mind as examples of this, according to many of the online messageboards, letters to editors, etc.. Both Marines (Oswald and Mutha), by the way, were/are honorably separated and convicted of no crime, so far as I know.

Just why Marines now believe they have the right to judge who is and is not worthy of the title Marine is unclear. The title itself is mentioned in The Marines' Hymn, and is "claimed" by each Marine-- there is no formal appointment/certificate awarded that can be revoked, as one might believe from listening to some of these Johnny-come-lately malcontents.

Another verse in The Marines' Hymn mentions Heavens scenes, where the streets are guraded by the United States Marines. Sure enough, many Marines now refer to departed Marines as having received their final orders to guard...The Gates of Heaven. Apparently, now, they have even transplaced Saint Peter of his post at The Gate!
Unthinkable in The Old Corps!

Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines

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  1. Anonymous3:43 PM

    Good Afternoon Gunny....I've just recently come across your blog and have enjoyed reading the many comments and topics that you cover. I am writing to you today in regards to you article about "ex-Marines". While I am no where near close to you in terms of "Old Corps", (I served from '76-'98), I am a Marine, and as most Marines, I do have an opinion. While I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with the term "ex" Marine, it does tend to conjur the image of a Marine who has done something dishonest or dishonorable. However, that being said, I am not one of those who corrects people who use the term "ex". I prefer the use of the word "former", but again...that is just personal preference. You've got a great site going here. Please...keep up the good work as I will be checking in from time to time. I will be adding your blog to my "favorites". Semper Fi Marine! P.S. If you care to reply, you can reach me at

  2. I have already e-mailed the above poster/comments re this.

    So this is just a general response for other viewers mostly, I agree that all of us are entitled to our own opinion on these things, and each of us is free too choose, in this case, whether to use former or ex, whatever.

    If any of you frequent any of the numerous Marines sites (so-called) online, you will see that a quite different scenario exists regarding such controversial topics. Indeed, only the herd, state approved opinion is to be spoken/written--the party line--all differing opinions and those naughty enough to post them on a Marine board, are morons, traitors, etc.

    Not so at Gunny G's...--like the sign out front says, "For Thinking Marines"!

    Semper Fidelis
    Dick Gaines


The 'Reader Responses; shown on many posts/articles are almost always worthwhile reading.

Often, the comments by readers enhance the posted article greatly, and are informative and interesting.

Hopefully, all will remember to read the reader comments, and post their own as well.