So the Marine Corps Times ran an article this week with a picture of a Combat Action Ribbon, henceforth referred to as CAR, and the title “No CAR, No Respect: ending the Ribbon Rack divide.” Now, for those that don’t know, the CAR is what is bestowed upon a Marine after participating in actual ground combat. You see, you could be deployed to Iraq, spend your time on a fortified base pushing paper, and no CAR. Or, you could have the enemy fire upon you, you fire back, and voila CAR. That is an oversimplified explanation as I couldn’t tell you word for word the criteria, but hopefully you get the gist. Bottom line, it is a valued ribbon in the Marines and it has led some to believe that after 14 years of war, if you don’t have one, then you don’t rate. Well, since I know the Marine Corps relies on obscure blogs such as this one to settle such debates, let me help out the Commandant and do so. After all, he is a regular reader of this blog. That’s a lie. I don’t know that at all actually.
Of Course a CAR Matters
Look, every Marine wants a CAR. Love it or hate it, it’s true. You don’t join the Marines in any capacity if at some level you don’t really want to experience combat. Yes, even the POG admin boot has dreams of somehow delivering a government issued black pen under heavy artillery bombardment. The Marine Corps makes no qualms about who they are and always have been. Namely, a life taking organization and you join it for that reason alone.
Consequently, it is congruent that the service should have an award such as the CAR to recognize those whom have actually done so. Now, I don’t want you take this statement as some intentional slight against Persons Other than Grunts, aka, POGs. I made in clear in my article, A POG by Any Other Name, that all jobs in the Marines play their role in war.
However, I also said that the Marines should and rightly do glorify the Infantry. It is who we are and the Marines should take no shame in that. But POGs can earn a CAR as well. Thus, it is much the same with the CAR. Yes, the Marines should make some sort of deal about those whom have actually done that which the entire Marine Corps exists to do in the first place. It makes Chesty proud and hippies sad. I call it a win-win.
Be Cool Man
That being said, be cool Marines, be cool. Honestly, every last one of you whether you be with CAR or not. Dakota Meyer and Kyle Carpenter are living Marine legends with Medals of Honor and yet they act with more humility than some CAR carrying Marines these days. Be cool man.
You should be proud of your CAR and I don’t care if you give non-CAR Marines a hard time about it. My brother was a Marine Grunt in the late nineties and I’ll find a way to turn a conversation about cat food into a reminder to him that he didn’t experience combat. He hates it, I love it, and thanksgiving has been more fun ever since my war.
That being said, my brother was an excellent Marine and is currently an excellent cop in a very dangerous city in America. If you give my brother my war experience, he probably tracks down Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden himself. However, we will never know because it was not in the cards for war to be during his season. He wished it were so as many do, but he has no reason to hold his head any lower. So if you are a cocky lance corporal fortunate enough to have old rich men decide it was time to go to war when you were in, then brag all you want. Just be cool about it and don’t be a dick. Unless it is to your brother, then you know, fair game.
A CAR by Any Other Name
You see, I rate a CAR and thus you may think I am biased. But here is the thing that makes it interesting. I don’t know if I have one. Three weeks after returning from Iraq in 2003, my time was up and I was out of the Marines never to put on the uniform again. Full disclosure, I tried to put on my dress blues recently, but they must have shrunk while sitting in my closet these past 12 years.
Point is, every member of my platoon rightly earned a CAR for our experiences in 2003 Iraq, yet I assume because I was out when the paperwork was pushed, I have no idea if it is on my final record or not. It wasn’t on my DD214 when I got out in 2003 and I honestly don’t care. Ok maybe a little, but deep down, I don’t care. It is not like I am the first person to have admin screw up my junk. I’ll always value my actual experiences more than earthly good destined to rot after I am gone.
But I stand by my experiences and will point you to any member of my platoon to testify to it. That being said, does it seem crazy to anyone that my mundane experience of combat rates a CAR the same as those who stormed the streets of Tet, froze their junk off at the Choisen Reservoir, or fought for the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima? You see, someone reading this blog right now has a CAR and like me, realizes, that greater men than them earned that same multi-colored ribbon over much harsher real estate. So if you have one, be proud, but be cool brothers. We got the war of our time, not the one of our choosing.
That being said, I want to wrap this up with a message to non-CAR Marines. Stop whining. Seriously, If I find out that one of the Marines complaining about this CAR divide was a man whom knowingly enlisted as admin in a time of War, I am going to cry for my beloved Corps. Don’t give me some crap about your high ASVAB score. Bottom line, if you wanted to take lives you could have, but you chose otherwise.
Marines are always going to give each other a hard time and after 14 years of War, if you don’t have a CAR, well, life is going to suck a little bit for you until the next war. Come to terms with it as you must. Yet, be proud of your service. Currently today we salute our Vietnam Veterans for all their sacrifice, yet they had POGs back then too. They just called the REMF from what I can tell. But If I see you as a 19 year old Marine with a CAR disrespecting a Vietnam Vet because he pushed paper in Saigon, I am going to hold you down until the grey haired REMF gets his first kill.
Be cool, everyone. CAR, non-CAR, POG, REMF, stop being a dick, stop whining, and just be cool. Marine cool, but still cool. The Marines will glorify their infantry and their combat vets as they rightly should. If I could pick between leadership with a CAR or without a CAR, I pick a CAR hands down. Yet, as Marines, we serve when and where we are told. Marines who served during peace should wear their Eagle Globe and Anchor with pride and swagger. You earned it. Consequently, I expect a Marine admin message from the Commandant to come out shortly with the following message, be proud, respect experience, and yet, be cool, all of you. Because somewhere, Dan Daley with his two Medals of Honor is looking down on all of us as a bunch of non-rates.
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