Us: Mark Michielsen of VFW Back Bay Post 1211

Ed. — The Independent News asked people to write about lessons from their military service, past or present, and most responses ran this summer and are now online at our website. To read the previous works from this series, please search for The Us Project at princessanneindy.com.


I have learned many lessons from my military service that guide me today. I joined the U.S. Marine Corps when I was 17, and my parents had to sign the paperwork for me because I was not of legal age to do so.

First, I must say my parents instilled many of the lessons before I freely raised my hand and took the oath for the first time. Military service in the Marine Corps amplified those lessons and took me further into adulthood.

The resocialization process in the Marine Corps – boot camp, if one makes it to graduation – defines an individual forever. I always say I am a Marine in a retired status. After 27 years of active service, a Marine’s status is the only thing that changes. 

The lessons learned along the way are a way of life for Marines. They are not just words. We live by those lessons and still serve. Honor is the bedrock of our character. It is the quality that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior — to never lie, cheat or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity; and to have concern for each other. It represents the maturity, dedication, trust and dependability that commit Marines to act responsibly, be accountable for their actions, fulfill their obligations and hold others accountable for their actions.

Courage is the heart of our core values. Courage is the mental, moral and physical strength ingrained in Marines that sees them through the challenges of combat and the mastery of fear, and to do what is right, to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, to lead by example and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure. It is the inner strength that enables a Marine to take that extra step.

Commitment is the spirit of determination and dedication within members of a force of arms that leads to professionalism and mastery of the art of war. It promotes the highest order of discipline for unit and self and is the ingredient that instills dedication to Corps and country 24 hours a day. It reflects pride, concern for others and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor. Commitment is the value that establishes the Marine as the warrior and citizen others strive to emulate.

To some this may sound, well, corny and full of bravado. I assure you, Marines live by these principles and character traits. They are not just words for bravado’s sake or a selling point. Marines are taught in boot camp to lead and to follow. The freshly minted Marine from graduation is equipped with the skills and training to make decisions and to follow orders from those appointed over them.

The Marine then decides how to carry out those orders. They have the discipline and moral courage to do the right thing even when nobody is watching.

These lessons and my training, early on, prepared me to lead and to have the privilege to command a large force of Marines into combat, where I learned more lessons. I’ve learned many lessons being in command, having those responsibilities of making decisions of life and death, quickly and decisively.  All the while though, these character traits – honor, courage and commitment – guided me as they still do today.

I lost my faith while in combat. I question why God would allow such things to happen. It took me some time, but I have restored my faith in God. Today, I live these character traits daily. I never forget, keeping God and the lessons I’ve learned in my military service, close to my heart and mind. It’s a way of life. It’s who I am, not just words, but who we are as I continue to serve God, country, family and community.

Mark Michielsen of Pungo retired as a master gunnery sergeant from the U.S. Marine Corps. He owns and operates a music production company and serves as the junior vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Back Bay Post 1211.

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

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