Marine Corps’ 247th birthday message emphasizes confidence, lethality

The commandant of the Marine Corps on Tuesday released his annual birthday message, which emphasizes the confidence and toughness of Marines in battle.

A minute and a half into the nearly 11-minute video, the soundtrack goes silent.

“What keeps you awake at night?” the video shows former defense secretary and legendary retired Marine Gen. Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis being asked on CBS’ Face the Nation in 2017.

“Nothing,” Mattis replies. “I keep other people awake at night.”

Mattis’ unflinching attitude sets the tone for the rest of the video, which largely focuses on the Corps’ long war-fighting mission, including Belleau Wood in France in 1918 and Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006.

“And while battlefields and technologies change, the qualities of a Marine are timeless,” a sonorous male voice narrates. “Grit. Strength. Boldness. Discipline. Initiative. Adaptability. Honor. Courage. And commitment.”

Brig. Gen. Anthony M. Henderson, a Black Marine who in 2021 made New York Times and national headlines when the outlet reported he had been passed over three times as a colonel trying to make general, was the first active-duty Marine in the video shown in a sit-down interview.

“The American strength is based upon the fabric of all the different cultures and people that come to it ― and that applies on the battlefield, and I’ve seen that there,” he says.

Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, makes an appearance, as does Col. Nicole Mann, a former Marine pilot with 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mann is now serving as an astronaut, and in October launched as commander on a NASA mission to the International Space Station.

Marine Lance Cpl. Cedar Ross talks about the legacy of his great-grandfather: Marine veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams.

Williams died in June at the age of 98. He was the oldest and last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient.

The video nods to the Marine Corps as “America’s No. 1 crisis response force” ― a title the Corps still claims, but some experts now have skepticism about given that in May the Marine Corps ended all three of its crisis-response deployments, which had been set up after the 2012 attack on Benghazi, Libya.

It also nods toward what it says was the Corps’ longest amphibious raid from the sea ― 400 Marines launched 370 miles from the amphibious assault ships Peleliu and Baatan into Afghanistan in 2001, when the nation was reeling from the 9/11 attacks.

War in Afghanistan ended much as it began ― with U.S. Marines defending a runway

The focus on the Corps’ amphibious capability points back to the sea, which is a major goal of its 2030 Force Design plan.

Toward the end of the video, Commandant Gen. David Berger gives a short address in which he also hints at his Force Design 2030 strategy, which is controversial among many vocal veterans and is reshaping the modern Corps.

“Across the force, we continue to innovate and experiment in preparation for the future fight,” Berger says. “Where we will fight might be uncertain, but we prepare for uncertainty. When called, we will fight, and we will win — today, tomorrow and in the future. These victories are not won because of our technology or our equipment, but because of all of you.”

The message ends with Berger and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black declaring, “Semper Fidelis. Happy birthday, Marines.”

The video includes footage of every Marine expeditionary force in exercises and operations all across the globe, according to Capt. Tom Kleiber, head of the team that produced the birthday message.

“Like everything the Marine Corps does, the production of the video message is a team effort,” Kleiber, production and engagement director for Headquarters Marine Corps, told Marine Corps Times.

Nov. 10 will mark 247 years since the founding of the Marine Corps in Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern in 1775.

Marine Corps Times editor Andrea Scott contributed to this report.