Times were tense before the initial February assault on Marjah, Afghanistan. A narcotics hub and Taliban stronghold, it was expected to be booby-trapped with improvised explosive devices and filled with insurgents waiting for a fight.
Obviously, the Corps took control of Marjah within days. It’s still a dangerous place, but one where Marine officials say they see hope, at least.
Before the assault, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Walgren, the company gunny for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, fired up his troops with a gritty, heartfelt speech.
In many ways, it shows the best of the Corps. Occasionally profane but filled with bravado and pride, it it was delivered to ready 1/6’s Marines for a battle in which not everyone would come home alive.
That speech is captured here if you haven’t seen it, overlayed with some of the positive things 1/6 did during its deployment this spring.
Again, a note for those reading at work: There is some profanity in the video.
If you’re a Marine or follow the Corps closely, you’ve likely already seen this video. It has been viewed nearly a quarter-million times on YouTube, and shared tens of thousands of time on the Web. It features Walgren’s fiery account of retired Col. John Glenn laying into a political opponent, Howard Metzenbaum, during a 1974 race for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio.
Seeking a good way to mark today’s 235th Marine Corps Birthday, I sought out those involved in the video above. It was created by Cpl. Charles Mabry, a Marine who was attached to 1/6 to record history for Combat Camera. Gunny Walgren didn’t know it at the time, but Mabry recorded the speech, and posted it in March against video of a small, white puppy that wandered up to 1/6 Marines in Afghanistan in January.
Reached for comment last week, Walgren said the speech was “never supposed to be caught on camera.” He acknowledged their may be some benefit to the Corps from the video being seen so many times, but deflected attention to his 1/6 Marines, praising them for their professionalism and bravery.
“The fact that it’s on YouTube, there’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “That speech was for them. That was our moment.”
Walgren’s speech about Glenn, a retired pilot, astronaut and eventual U.S. senator, largely stands up as accurate, with a few dramatic embellishments. For one, Metzenbaum did not say that Glenn had “never held a job.” What he said was close, though: He noted that Glenn had ”never had to meet a payroll,” according to media accounts of the debate.
I sought out old media coverage of Glenn’s speech. Here’s a 1992 account by the Columbus Dispatch:
On May 3, 1974, at the City Club debate in Cleveland, Glenn let fly with the following counterattack that left Metzenbaum mumbling:
”Howard, I can’t believe you said that. I served 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I went through two wars. I flew 149 missions. My plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire on 12 different occasions.
”I ask you to go with me as I went the other day to a veterans’ hospital, and look those men with their mangled bodies in the eye and tell them they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job.
”You go with me on Memorial Day coming up and you stand in Arlington National Cemetery, where I have more friends than I like to remember, and you watch those waving flags, and you stand there and you think about this nation and you tell me that those people didn’t have a job.
”I tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men – some men – who held a job.”
Food for thought today? Of course. Happy birthday, Marines.