Corporate greed and institutional decay brought about a tidal wave of organizational reflection in the 1990s and the U.S. military wasn’t immune to the introspection. During the 1990s, all the service branches formally adopted service-specific values that they had long ago embraced and lived since the services were founded. Most recently, in 2021, the U.S. Space Force adopted its own set of values.
The Marine Corps values are no different. Adopted formally in the 1990s, it is widely accepted that the Marine Corps values have been at the center of Marine Corps culture since 1775.
“Honor, Courage, and Commitment are not just words; they frame the way Marines are to live and act,” wrote the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr whose memorandum made official the adoption of the Marine Corps values.
The Marine Corps values for decades have helped the Marine Corps create its identity by expecting its Marines to live with Honor, Courage, and Commitment. It requires Marines to adhere to higher standards of professional and personal conduct, and devote themselves to the good order of discipline.
Mundy believed and wrote in his memo that the purpose of creating the Marine Corps values was to “Enhance transformation into U.S. Marines through a rigorous, thorough reaffirmation of Marine Corps Values training and education.”
Mundy penned the “Statement on Core Values of The United States Marines” and he identified each Marine Corps value. They are:
This is the cornerstone of Marine Corps values and character. This word is a beacon that helps Marines navigate the complex world in which they operate. It enables them to be ethical, uncompromising in principles, and to conduct themselves with integrity. By doing so, Marines are accountable for their actions and hold others accountable for their actions.
A Marine cannot be honorable without courage. As we’ve all heard, it takes bravery to do the right thing and courage thus is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps values. In addition, the physical nature of Marine Corps missions requires that Marines muster bravery and overcome the paralytic nature of combat. Intestinal fortitude is a huge part of the Marine Corps values, whether it means stepping up to do the right thing, or executing a hard mission with honor and integrity.
According to the Marine Corps, commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication found in Marines. It leads to the highest order of discipline for individuals and units. It is the ingredient that enables constant dedication to Corps and country. It inspires the unrelenting determination to achieve victory in every endeavor.
Clearly, the Marines expect a 24/7 commitment to the Marine Corps values. While a Marine may be off duty and not in uniform, they are still expected to live by the Marine Corps values. This commitment does not end when they leave military service.
Ask any Marine veteran and they will proudly tell you, once a Marine, always a Marine. This complete devotion and commitment to the Marine Corps values is what separates the Marine Corps from other branches of service.