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Languages, Military, Perspectives

Semper Fidelis

As the United States Marine Corps celebrates its 240th birthday today (10.11.2015), I stop and take the time to think about marines in America, all over the world and especially those on deployment in combat zones. I think about what they are sacrificing, what they are doing, where they are and that oath of honour, courage, commitment and brother-and-sisterhood that unites them. But also with November 11th on the horizon: Remembrance Day for all those who lost their lives in the First World War, I reflect on all the history, the different wars all over the world and the people who have died over the years serving and defending their countries. It’s not just in the past though, it is something people are still doing today and will continue doing far into the future and beyond. Fighting, defending, dying. But is it worth it?

It doesn’t matter which side you are on. There’s no right or wrong. Just perspective and opinion. We all believe in something. We are all fighting for or defending a cause. Sometimes though, that belief drives nations apart. It can drive people to hate and to intolerance. We might not agree with ideologies nor tolerate certain acts but each side believes so strongly, so undoubtedly with absolute conviction in something so great, in something far bigger than his- or herself that they are willing to put their life on the line to fight for it, to defend it and to die for it. That much faith, hope, belief, trust and love is what really touches my heart. OK, I’m a romantic. A dreamer. A philosopher. But for whatever reasons marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen join the military, or why our ancestors took up arms and fought in Europe, be it to provide for families, to run away from their lives back home, patriotism, to make a difference, to make a change and to leave a legacy for younger generations, to defend King and country, whatever the reason, it’s irrelevant. Because when they signed that dotted line, they ultimately signed a blank cheque payable to their country for an amount up to and including their life. That is the bottom line. They gave the most expensive gift that anyone could give. That selfless act to protect their people and lay down their lives to save strangers (including ungrateful idiots, corrupt politicians and all the criminals) and to be indispensably used (and in part abused) by their governments. That is love. That is faith. And yes, it is worth it.

And that’s what Semper Fidelis is. It’s a Latin phrase which translated means “Always Faithful”. It’s roots lie in the UK (*cheers*), it is the motto of the city of Exeter (I nearly went to Exeter Uni to study languages!) and it can be found in some Irish families’ coats of arms. It has many military roots as well but it is most famously used and known in the United States as the Marine Corps motto. It’s often shorted to Semper Fi. I didn’t realise it was the USMC motto at first until I saw it written on my friend’s Facebook Wall. He is a US Marine. When I researched its meaning, I discovered that it is a phrase that unites marines, veterans and the American people. It ignites in them a passion, energy and gives them hope. It conjures up that pride and patriotic love which the Americans are renowned for. It’s used sometimes as a greeting, as a condolence, as a way of saying “be safe” or “I love you” or “keep going”. It’s a phrase that displays respect among marines. It is a code by which they live. It is more than faith in the literal sense; it is honour, courage, commitment, sacrifice, duty, love, hope AND faith. It is believing in something greater than themselves and putting their life on the line to defend and fight for it.

No war is good. Let me just clear that up. War is terrible. Nothing good can come of fighting and hating. It’s destructive. It’s soul destroying. It’s hard and physically, emotionally and psychologically crushing to the point it can break people and destroy lives. I wish there was a world of peace where we just shared love. Where we didn’t need to worry about terrorism, about people exploiting others, about greed and manipulation. Where you could just walk onto a plane without completing the security assault course. Where you could let your kids play outside unsupervised. Where you could leave your cars and doors unlocked. But bad things happen. There is also death, famine and natural disasters. Like Yin and Yang, like cosmic balance, like Adam and Eve, like in any Disney or action hero movie, there is always good AND bad in this world. Heroes and villains. It balances the scales. It’s part of the puzzle. We all have a good side and a bad side. It’s just which side we choose to let influence our decisions and what we do, and in turn, the type of people we become that defines our characters and differentiates us. How many pieces of the puzzle that make you up are good? How many are bad? So long as people exist, there will always be love and hate. There will always be times of war and peace. There will always be misunderstandings and a need for compromising. There will always be hostile agitators and defensive peacemakers. We will always need our military to be ready to protect us. There will always be fights, disagreements, people who judge, who abuse, who are negative and like to put others down. We’ll never be able to stamp out all the evil in the world but we can try. We can fight it with love.  There are people that love endlessly, unconditionally and faithfully. They are positive, strong, courageous, full of hope, they give selflessly and generously and do good things that balance out the bad. They have the drive, determination and honour never to give up and admit defeat. They endure, sacrifice and sometimes they may lose their battles. But they always have faith. We need those people to fight for us, for our freedom, for all the good things in life. Because life is about learning, living and loving and that is worth dying for.

I guess you need to ask yourself what does faith mean to you?

For some it is about being committed or loyal to someone or something. For others it may be religion, ideologies or beliefs. I’m a Christian but I don’t think the word faith can be limited to just one concept. The dictionary for starters has many definitions, and coming from a linguistic perspective, the word faith in different languages and contexts can be translated in a variety of ways.

Faith to me is an abundance of things. It isn’t tangible. It’s abstract and immeasurable. But despite being immeasurable, it’s something you can’t really do in half measures. You do it wholeheartedly, with abslolute conviction. You either have faith or you don’t. You either give 100% or you don’t. Faith is active. It’s goes deeper than your mind and is connected to your soul, to your being. It’s at your core.

It’s about believing in something or someone. When you have faith, there is no room for doubts. It is believing in what you feel is right. We can never be 100% sure of anything, but faith allows us to overcome our fears and trust that we are following the right path and doing the right thing.It is about believing, dreaming and making those dreams a reality through perseverance, commitment and dedication. It is that drive that pushes you out of bed each day to work harder, or smarter or more focused.

It’s the ability to trust. To trust in something or have the confidence in someone that you have no control over. It’s putting your life, your finances, your dreams in the hands of someone else. It’s about taking the leap of faith and risking everything. To jump blind. To take the first step without being able to see the other side.

It’s committing to someone or something. Being truthful and honest. Being open, selfless and generous. Sharing things and loving them. It isn’t coerced. Love is voluntarily and willingly given without expecting in return. Likewise faith cannot be forced onto someone. It is about love in the deepest sense. Giving your heart to someone even though they may break it. Selflessly laying down your life to protect and save another even if they are ungrateful or undeserving. Striving for a greater cause. Fighting for love, for honour and for your beliefs. It is looking at who you are, who you want to be and how you want to live your life, committing to being the best version of yourself you can be. About following a set of rules, living by a code of conduct or proving your fidelity to a promise, oath or allegiance.

Faith is the belief and hope that things will work out, the strength to continue and fight harder when it seems that the odds are against you. (But “may the odds be ever in your favour” ~Hunger Games 😉 ) That positive optimism that gives you the confidence and strength to achieve your goals and know there is always light at the end of the tunnel, a respite and you’ll get to the other side OK.

It’s having the vision to sometimes see the invisible. To see that despite wars, bad things and bad people, the world can change or be better. It’s seeing the potential. It’s having that glass half full attitude and knowing that despite bad things, the ups and downs and challenges, life is good, blessed and full of opportunities. (Glass half empty? Be blessed you even have a glass! 😉 )

Since learning this Latin phrase, I have passionately adopted it into my life. I bought myself the necklace shown above to remind myself of Marine Corps values and Semper Fidelis. I try to live by these principles every day and if I cannot be faithful in all areas of my life then those areas need closer attention and I need to ask myself why. I always strive to be better. To go further. To learn more and be the best I can be.

Always Faithful:

To believe
To love
To risk
To be loyal
To hope
To dream
To commit
To trust
To be positive
To fight
To be strong
To understand
To not accept defeat
To keep going
To do

I think this is why marines yell ‘oorah’ when they hear this motto, why Americans love it and why it unites and rouses patriotism in the US. It’s positivity and optimism at their best. Although the phrase is uncommon in the UK and Brits are characteristically classically pessimistic, these qualities unknowingly unite our Armed Forces and our people too. Just look how patriotic and rallied together we are from times of war to celebrating Royal babies, the Queen’s birthdays, jubilee and any occasions where we can fly our flags, have street parties and indulge in all things British! We believe in our United Kingdom, in our Queen and people. Faith is more than just an abstract noun in the literal sense, it is a concept that unites us because despite our differences, cultures and languages, we all believe in something. We all believe and trust in someone. And just that is common ground that connects us. It’s a simple phrase but below the surface is a powerful statement, one that rouses the very best in me to get up and live my life the best I can and as honest and as full as I can. Our ancestors in the First and Second World Wars fought for the love of their countries and to protect their loved ones at home. Some died for that love. As a motto it is perfect. It’s the command to keep fighting. To choose to live not die. And if countries must cash those cheques their military personnel signed, then let it be for reasons of love and goodness and let’s never forget that gift they gave us.

Semper Fi marines, be safe and thank you for your service. Happy 240th Birthday! Now go celebrate in style 😉


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love charlemagne