Honor. Courage. Commitment. The core values of Marines have given words to the creed they have lived by since 1775. Marine legends like Smedley Butler and Chesty Puller built careers by living these words, but they are not the only ones. Today we join Kori yates as she reminds us that courage counts in this celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday!

Courage Counts: Happy Birthday Marines!

A young woman is in dirty water practicing military maneuvers

by Kori Yates

The Firsts

  • Opha May Johnson – Opha was the first woman to become a Marine…ever. She enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1918 to allow men to head to Europe for World War I. She led the way for three hundred other ladies who followed shortly thereafter. (source)
  • Ruth Cheney Streeter – Ruth became the Director of Women Marine Reservists in 1943, the first authorized group of women in the Corps. Prior to this, the military allowed women in World War I to be tasked with only clerical duties. Having never held a paying job, the task of recruiting, training, administration, and uniforming the new Women’s Reserve fell to her. (source)
  • Annie E. Graham – In 1949, Annie, from Detroit Michigan, became the first African-American female Marine. She attended basic training at Paris Island, then reported for her first assignments at Headquarters Marine Corps. Multiple young women followed in her footsteps. (source)

These are just a few of the “firsts.” Have you heard of these amazing women? Courageous and capable, these women helped pave the way for many firsts that would follow from tank mechanics to combat tours. Somebody had to go first and these women raised their hands to do so. The Marine Corps and our military community would not be the same without them

They truly lived the core values of the Corps, but I am most amazed by their courage. I, too, was a Marine, but not the only one and certainly not the first. Systems and standards were already established, and opportunities were already available. These women did not have that luxury and yet they signed up anyway.

Courage Counts

According to the Marine Corps, “It (courage) is the inner strength that enables us to do what is right, to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure.” I would add to this definition the willingness to go first and pave the way for others. Courage is mandatory.

A young female Marine maneuvers on a rope overhead in military training.

As Christian military women, courage is mandatory for us as well. To live our faith in the places we live requires courage – in barracks and chow halls, gyms, and commissaries, whether down range or home base. The Bible defines courage as strong, bold, and alert.  

You may remember the words of David to his son, Solomon, as he handed the throne of Israel down. “Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (1 Chronicles 28:20). These words, written thousands of years ago, still ring true for us. 

As we look at the world around us, we can feel weary, afraid, or anxious about simply living the military life, and even more so in living out our faith in this place.

The call, though, is to live lives of courage, to be strong, bold, and alert, but not on our own.

God is With Us

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” He challenges us to continue to step forward in hope and faith, but Paul also knew the secret. He knew we couldn’t be immovable or steadfast on our own. In all honesty, we all know how that turns out.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, he reminds them of the core of courage. He said, Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). The courage we live by doesn’t come from us. It comes from the God who saved us, who poured his Spirit, the Spirit of power (1 Timothy 1:7) into us. 

Happy Birthday, Marine Corps!

As we celebrate the birthday of my beloved Corps today, my prayer is that we, too, would remember that courage counts. Let us live lives of courage. Not just the “adhering to higher standards” or “making tough decisions under stress” kind of courage, but the “strong, bold, and alert” kind of courage that only comes from God. THIS courage changes us, our families, our communities, and, at times, the eternity of others as we share the hope of Christ with the world.

Happy Birthday Marine Corps!

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