2009 Marine Corps Birthday Message

 The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway delivers the 234th Marine Corps Birthday message. " Carrying On A Legacy Of Valor "

Run For the Fallen
Camp Ramadi, Iraq
August 24, 2008

On Sunday the 24th of August, 326 Marines, Sailors and a few civilians participated in a three mile run around Camp Ramadi. The first mile was run in honor of Lance Corporal Jordan C Haerter, the second mile was run in honor of SSgt Danny Dupre, and the final mile was run in honor of all who gave the ultimate sacrifice.


The first tear stings the eye; it is the one to remember,
the others flow indiscriminately without permission
a great arsenal stored up in secret for release,
allowing the history of this day to run its salt path down your cheek
never to be swiped away by trembling hand or shirt cuff.

I regret leaving my dark glasses somewhere,
knowing this was going to be the day of all days,
the one piercing moment separated from all others
singled out like a glowing ray of sun, on that one ocean wave
that we just cannot tear our eyes from,
until the light fades slowly to evening,
dusk and then darkness.

Up ahead, a photographer weaves his determined way
through village streets,
like a tropical fish darting effortlessly
through coral in a silent warm sea.
My eye, flutters, maybe, like the shutter of a camera
meagerly trying to etch this pause of eternal
stand still time in my mind’s eye.
I wait in long, strung together moments in this place,
as my thoughts curve, swirl, and float surreally
like snow white perfumed pear blossoms in late spring
meeting soft ground below,
as well intended by nature’s plan.

After all, we are here on these familiar streets,
in witness, to receive our Native Son home;
he waits for us, we wait for him,
in stiff, somber, reverent disbelief.
Passing through these open gates of undulating flags
mother and father behind, escorting safe passage
of hearse draped in blackness, mile upon mile
from distant Delaware, a place of origin and sorrow.
Did not this early colony also experience strife and war long ago
in the struggle for independence?
Are not her fathers and sons laid to rest near a fertile Delaware River
bounded by bays and estuaries?

Also too, our Marine has come back from foreign land of sand and turmoil
so seemingly, like star studded prismed galaxies far away
to his place of birth, and somehow his youth still mysteriously
remembering Milky Way quiet starry nights,
waves lapping shores of bay and ocean,
fishing, and charged sea journeys of swift boats
off the end of this island,
dear friends, beloved families,
and beach parties on long, cool summer nights.

My heart arches its back in agony, but not in defeat,
as I look out upon the waters for comfort, and maybe forgiveness.
Beneath me, at my feet, blue green running waves are ever mute,
as their flickering molecules of liquid sound repeat softly to me,
“What have you done to my child of pure transparent spirit and innocence?”
Now, all the waters of this earth, and dust of hills and valleys
along these sandy shores will slowly gather him up in silence,
one atom at a time in the essence of a sparkling moment gently
laying our Marine beneath a great vast field of wild bending flowers,
that are reaching as far as the eye can see
to the sound and watery depths of the distant ocean.

An Osprey hovers in the moist air above me
On this dusky, twilight evening, back dropped
against a purple rose end of day sky,
patiently waiting, observing, perceiving of any movement below water’s surface.
I too look below the sunlit depths, past all submerged rocks, fish, and shells
maybe for something lost, and yet for now, unable to find.
Standing up, with one last breathing look,
I gather myself homeward.

Poem by John Stefanik

In honor and respect for Marine Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter
who died on April 22, 2008 while serving his country in Iraq.