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Marine Corps Terms and Definitions

"First to Fight"- Marines have been in the forefront of every American war since the founding of the Corps. They have carried out over 300 landings on foreign shores. They have served everywhere, from the poles to the tropics. Their record of readiness reflects pride, responsibility and challenge.

"Semper Fi"
- That Marines have lived up to their motto, "Semper Fidelis" (Latin for Always Faithful), as in Semper Fidelis - - Always faithful - - to God, Country, and Corps. It is proven by the fact that there has never been a mutiny among U.S. Marines. This motto was adopted about 1883. Before that, there had been three mottoes, all traditional rather than official. The first, "Fortitudine" (With Fortitude), appeared about 1812. The second, "By Sea and by Land," was obviously a translation of the Royal Marines' "Per Mare, Per Terram." Until 1848, the third motto was "To the Shores of Tripoli," in commemoration of O'Bannon's capture of Derne in 1805. In 1848, after the return to Washington of the Marine battalion which took part in the capture of Mexico City, this motto was revised to "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli." The current Marine Corps motto is shared with England's Devonshire Regiment.

"Devil Dogs"
In the Belleau Wood fighting in 1918, the Germans received a thorough indoctrination in the fighting ability of the Marines. Fighting through supposedly impenetrable woods and capturing supposedly untakeable terrain, the persistent attacks, delivered with unbelievable courage soon had the Germans calling Marines "Teufelhunde," referring to the fierce fighting dogs of legendary origin. Urrrhhh Raaah!

"Esprit de Corps"
The "spirit"; of a unit. This spirit is commonly reflected by all members. It implies devotion and loyalty to the Marine Corps, with deep regard for history, traditions and honor.

"Leathernecks"
The Marines' long-standing nickname goes back to the leather stock or neckpiece, which was part of the Marine uniform from 1775 to 1875. The leather bands around their throats were intended to ensure that Marines kept their heads erect.

"Uncommon Valor"
Refers to the victories in World War II, especially at Iwo Jima, the largest all Marine battle in history. Admiral Nimitz's ringing epitome of Marine fighting on Iwo Jima was applied to the entire Marine Corps in World War II: "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

"Gyrenes"
The term "gyrene" is a jocular reference to Marines which was first used in England as early as 1894. It was used in the United States around the time of World War I. Its exact origin is unknown, but it did appear to have a derogatory meaning in its early usage. It has been suggested that the term may embody a reference to pollywog, a naval slang term for a person who has not yet "crossed" (the equator), hence, a landlubber.

"Jarhead"
A slang term used by sailors as early as World War II to refer to members of the Marine Corps, drawing the term from the resemblance of the Marine dress blues uniform, with its high collar, to a Mason jar.

"Soldiers of the Sea"
A traditional and functional term for Marines, dating back to the British in the 1600's.

"Once a Marine, Always a Marine"
This truism is now the official motto of the Marine Corps League. The origin of the statement is credited to a gung-ho Marine Corps master sergeant, Paul Woyshner. During a barroom argument he shouted, "Once a Marine, always a Marine!" MSgt. Woyshner was right. Once the title "U.S. Marine" has been earned, it is retained. There are no ex-Marines or former-Marines.
There are
(1) active duty Marines
(2) retired Marines
(3) reserve Marines
(4) Marine veterans.
Nonetheless, once one has earned the title, he remains a Marine for life.

"Good night, Chesty, wherever you are"
This is an often-used tribute of supreme respect to the late and legendary LtGen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC. Chesty! Without a doubt he was the most outspoken Marine, the most famous Marine, the Marine who really loved to fight, the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps.. Chesty enlisted as a Private. Through incredible fortitude and tenacity he became a living legend. He shouted battle orders in a bellow and stalked battlefields as though impervious to enemy fire. Chesty rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. He displayed an abiding love for the Magnificent Grunts, especially the junior enlisted men who did the majority of the sacrificing and dying, and utter contempt for all staff pogues of whatever rank. During his four wars, he became the only Marine to be awarded the Navy Cross five times. The Marines' Marine! "Good night, Chesty, wherever you are."

"A Few Good Men"
On 20 March 1779 in Boston, Capt. William Jones,USMC, advertised for "a few good men" to enlist in the Corps for naval duty. The term seemed ideally suited for Marines, mainly because of the implication that "a few" good men would be enough. This term has survived for over 200 years and has been synonymous with U.S. Marines ever since