- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lt. Col. Lloyd Freeman, USMC (Ret.)
Best Defense guest respondent
I was disappointed in Mr. Tom Ricks’s publishing of the letter from Major Slider, who was lamenting his release from active duty from the U.S. Army due to a DUI he had received earlier in his career. I am a Marine officer and I too received a “black mark” earlier in my career due to my failure to uphold the high moral code of the Corps. I knew my mistake would mean I would not be assigned to select posts nor could I expect to be selected to command, and I wasn’t. However, unlike Major Slider, I felt remorse only for the mistake I made and I harbored no ill will towards the Marine Corps, whose high standards I had failed to live up to.
I chose to join the Marine Corps and I was well aware of the high standards required for military service. Military standards are and should always remain higher than those of civilian society and so when I came up short, I accepted the consequences and continued to seek to serve as long as the Marine Corps would allow me to serve. As I watched my peers get promoted and selected for command, the temptation to be bitter was always lingering, but I always reminded myself that it was I, not the Marine Corps, who had failed. Serving the Marine Corps was an honor the Marine Corps bestowed on me… it was not an honor that I bestowed on the Marine Corps. The permission and right to wear the Marine uniform was a privilege bestowed on me by the Corps, not some deserved privilege that I had acquired through my own self-absorption. Whether I served one year or twenty years, the honor I had to serve was not a sacrifice, it was an honor that was bestowed on me, and I will always owe a tremendous debt to the Corps for having taught me to be better then I believed myself capable, even if I didn’t get to serve as I might have wished.
Like Major Slider, I failed my service, but unlike Major Slider, I don’t expect my service to compromise its standards because I could not live up to them. The Marine Corps and the Army are services of honor and pride because of the standards and moral code they uphold. And if soldiers and marines like Major Slider and I cannot maintain such standards, there are thousands of fine officers behind us with stellar records who will gladly take our places and serve in a more honorable fashion.
Lloyd Freeman is a retired Marine infantry officer who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.