A U.S. Marine can be your best friend or your worst enemy.


My father enlisted in the Marine Corps and fought in the Korean War. I prize his Marine Corps memorabilia. He taught me how to treat and fire a weapon when I was eight years old. “Line ‘em up, squeeze ‘em off” still rings in my ears when I go to the range. A quote is tattooed on my brain, “A U.S. Marine can be your best friend or your worst enemy.” The first hymn I ever learned was the Marine Corps Hymn.

From the halls of Montezuma

To the shores of Tripoli,

We will fight our country’s battles,

In the air, on land, and sea,

First to fight for right and freedom

And to keep our honor clean:

We are proud to claim the title


Of United States Marine.


I love the U.S. Marine Corps and my country because I was taught that freedom is worth defending, that a country which protects freedom is worth serving. But teaching the goodness of America has fallen on hard times. If a people are not taught why their country, their history, their land is important they will not defend it. On the other hand, a patriot will sacrifice himself because he believes in his country: its past and its place.

Decrying what he sees as an attack on patriotism, Anthony Esolen writes

But we want no patriots. Therefore we want no lovers of their own place. The very purpose of what is miscalled multiculturalism is to destroy culture, by teaching students to dismiss their own and to patronize the rest. Hence the antidote to love of this place is not only a hatred of this place, but a phony engagement with any other place. [1]

I believe there are three basic truths about patriots. And every American needs to answer three basic questions about the future of American patriotism.

Truth #1: A patriot will defend his place

Question #1: But why defend a place unless you know why it is worth defending?

Truth #2: A patriot will dedicate the past

Question #2: But why remember the past unless you are taught its great leaders, speeches, battles, and documents?

Truth #3: A patriot will die for people

Question #3: But why die for people unless you care for the future of a nation?

Yet, I must amend my own list. There is something special about American patriots. Many people in history and throughout the world today will die for people and defend their place because they remember their past.

US Soldier SacrificeBut American patriotism is distinctive:

An American patriot will die for people he does not know, on soil he does not own, for a past he does not share, for the dream of freedom.

Like the Marine Corps Hymn says

We have fought in every clime and place . . .

In many a strife we’ve fought for life

And never lost our nerve.

Every American needs to consider their response to patriots and patriotism.  A people that does not honor its past and praise its patriots will lose their land, their past, their freedom.  And if America loses its freedom there are no other Americas left to save us.

Charles Dickens ends The Tale of Two Cities  pondering the essence of patriotism, laying down one’s life for another.

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. . . . It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. [2]

We Americans would all do well to produce patriots by teaching America’s past and explaining why America is a place is worth defending.

Mark still chokes up when he hears The National Anthem.  He is proud to be an American, to honor America’s patriots, and to warn those Americans who would disparage America, that we are the last America.  Dr. Mark Eckel teaches about the past to students of the future as Professor of Leadership, Education, and Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D.C. 

[1] Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2010), 134.

[2] Charles Dickens, The Tale of Two Cities, (Barnes and Noble, Collector’s Library, 2003), 510-11.


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  1. Dr Eckel,

    As a veteran I thank you for teaching this age to see and taste the freedom that we enjoy at the cost of sacrifice, blood and unspeakable anguish of past and present veterans. As a Christ follower I thank you for teaching me about my connection to “place” and its roots in the First Testament. I am forever changed because of your influence as described in the post above. I was a veteran who served his country and was discharged. Now I see the flag and selah, now I go out of my way to thank a service man/woman while holding back the tears. Now I am learning about the place, the past and people for which I served. The direct corollary to being a follower of Christ and an elder in His church is staggering. Thank you for arresting my mind with this important truth.

  2. Greetings Mark.
    Thank you very much for allowing us to read the article you had written. I too still remember many news reports and Videos about the freeing of the Nazi concentration camps with our military during World War II. I also recall the last time you and I had a chance to visit together at our home you’re telling me that the first individuals Hitler annihilated were the World War I soldiers because they were “worthless eaters”.
    We pray regularly for a spiritual awakening at every level of our society and a great appreciation for the history of our country and it’s values and roots. God bless you and your family.

  3. Dr Eckel,

    Great post indeed, Thank you for sharing my vision of just how great this country truly is. Its not because of beaches, the valleys, the mountains, rather it is those men and women who are willing to give life and limb to ensure that we possess the greatest gift of freedom. Just as we learn in John 15:13 i know this verse goes to all those not just the ones who wear the uniform but those who are willing to lay down everything they are to protect those they love! As we approach this blessed holiday in July i will prepare a place at my table for those cannot be with us today, in my remembrance of the blessings i am so grateful for, i hope you all will join me in this celebration! God bless us and those that truly make this country great!

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