Following the savage fighting that took place on Iwo Jima in one of the pivotal battles of World War II, Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz, in praising the Marines who fought there said: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” He was right, and the Marines of today are still exhibiting the uncommon valor of which Nimitz spoke all those years ago. For today’s Marines, uncommon valor is still a common virtue. In war and in peace, the United States Marine Corps can be counted on to be where the action is, doing whatever it takes to win the battle or help those in need. Consequently, when a relief helicopter went down while bringing life-giving supplies to earthquake victims in Nepal it came as no surprise that six of the personnel aboard were Marines.
The Marines on that ill-fated chopper in Nepal were doing what Marines have been doing since the Corps’ founding in 1775: risking their lives to save and protect the lives of others. All of the brave young Marines who died in Nepal knew they were putting their lives on the line when their chopper took off on that fateful day. How did they know? Because risking life and limb is part of the job description of all Marines. It’s not just what they do—it’s in their DNA. This is why whenever there is a mission that must be done right and must be done now, American presidents have long said: “Send in the Marines.”
In announcing the deaths of six Marines, USMC General John Wissler commented: “They were courageous, they were selfless individuals dedicated to the international rescue mission here in Nepal.” The six Marines who died in the chopper crash were part of Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 stationed at Camp Pendleton, California—home of the storied 1st Marine Division. They were in the Philippines on a training mission when the call came to divert to Nepal to assist with the relief effort. In giving their lives to help save the lives of others, these six Marines joined a long green line of heroes owed a debt of gratitude that should never be forgotten by all Americans. This long green line of honor includes some names that are well-known to the world as well as many that are not. But these names—known and unknown—all represent Marines who did their duty for country and Corps, and did it well.
To the families of the Marines who were lost in Nepal, you have the thanks of a grateful nation and the heartfelt condolences of every Marine who ever served and those serving now. To fellow Marines who worked, trained, and lived with these lost warriors, you have the satisfaction of knowing they died with their boots on doing exactly what they were dedicated to doing: their duty. To those Americans who know nothing of the United States Marine Corps, know this: our nation is a better place as a result of the dedication, commitment, and service of six young Marines who gave their lives in Nepal saving the lives of people they didn’t even know. That is why the Marines are called “The Few, The Proud…” As Ronald Reagan once said (paraphrased). Many people go through life wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem. Semper Fi to six lost brothers and to all of America’s warriors in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard—past and present—on this Memorial Day.