29 Facts You May Not Know for the Marine Corps’ 239th Birthday

Everyone knows the meaning of semper fidelis. But today, the USO takes a look at 29 other Marine Corps facts that may surprise you on the service’s 239th birthday:

Marine Rank

Now he can wear it on the outside. DOD photo

1. Marines often pin their next promotable rank onto their uniforms as a motivator. They usually hide it in their cover or under a pocket flap.

2. The Marine Corps’ first amphibious raid was only weeks after its creation when Marines successfully stormed a British weapons cache in the Bahamas.

3. The Marines’ first land battle on foreign soil was in Libya, where 600 Marines stormed the city of Derna to rescue the crew of the USS Philadelphia from pirates.

4. Male Marine recruits attend boot camp in one of two locations, depending on which side of the Mississippi they’re from: Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego for West Coast recruits (which is a separate facility from Camp Pendleton) and MCRD Parris Island for East Coast recruits.

5. Female recruits only attend MCRD Parris Island.

6. MCRD San Diego can be seen from the air if you fly into San Diego International Airport, causing recruits to wonder if the airport was built there to torment them.

Marine Drill Sgt

Nothing makes for a great photo like boot camp. DOD photo

7. Because MCRD Parris Island was the first of the two depots, Marines who attend MCRD San Diego are often called “Hollywood Marines” by Parris Island Marines. Hollywood Marines don’t have a name for Parris Island Marines because they feel bad about the sand fleas.

8. Since then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered the military to integrate women into combat arms occupations in January 2013, more than 18 female infantry officer candidates have attempted the qualification course. To this point, all 18 have failed to qualify.

9. Marines regularly train with their international counterparts from more than 15 different nations. See if you can hear/see the similarities between these Tongan Marines and U.S. Marines.

10. U.S. Marines also let their hair down at times while training with allied forces. Check out this drum battle with the South Korean Army band.

2012 Warrior Games (Practice 2)

A medically retired Marine at Warrior Games. DOD photo

11. The Marines have won four out of five Warrior Games competitions. This year marks their first loss to the Army.

12. Terrance Ford, brother of Harrison Ford, leads a photography program for wounded transitioning Marines at Wounded Warrior Battalion West on Camp Pendleton, called fStop Warrior Project.

13. Marine recruits are finished eating the moment their drill instructor is finished. This is why Marines eat so fast.

Watch out for the fist behind the beard. DOD photo.

Watch out for the fist behind the beard. DOD photo.

14. Fewer than 100 people have received the title of honorary Marine, a title that can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Here are a few of their names and ranks in order of seniority:

  • Chuck Norris (rank unknown but also unneeded)
  • Brig. Gen. Bob Hope
  • Master Sgt. Bugs Bunny
  • Cpl. Jim Nabors, star of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
  • Gary Sinise

15. “Hurry up and wait” is what happens when each leader down the chain of command tells his or her Marines to be there 15 minutes prior to the senior’s directive. This is why Marines arrive early to their destinations.

16. The license plate of the Commandant of the Marine Corps reads “1775.”

17. Marines in uniform are not authorized to put their hands in their pockets.

18. Only female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas in uniform.


19. The rank of Marine “gunner” is the only Marine Corps rank that requires different insignia on the left and right uniform collars (*The rank of colonel requires the eagles on each collar to be mirror images of each other, so they are also technically different insignia).

20. In the Corps, because of the total hours off, a three-day weekend is called a “72” and a four-day weekend is called a “96.”

Chesty always gets respect - and hugs. DOD photo

Chesty always gets respect – and hugs. DOD photo

21. The Marine Corps mascot is an English bulldog named Chesty, after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis B. “Chesty” Puller, the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.

21. Even though the Corps is an amphibious force, swim qualification is one of the few annual qualifications that doesn’t count toward a Marine’s promotion to the next rank.

23. A three-volley salute performed at funeral ceremonies is often confused with a 21-gun salute. The three-volley salute is the firing of three rifle volleys (rounds) over the graves of fallen armed forces members and political leaders and can be traced to the European dynastic wars, when fighting was halted to remove the dead and wounded. Once an area was cleared of casualties, three volleys were sent into the air as a signal to resume fighting. Three, five or seven Marines can perform a three-volley salute.

24. Every year, Thai Marines instruct U.S. Marines in a day of jungle-survival training as part of the annual exercise Cobra Gold. The training culminates with the U.S. Marines participating in a Thai warrior ritual that involves cutting a cobra’s head off and drinking its blood.

Marine John Glenn25. Marine Corps Col. John Glenn was the first *American to orbit the Earth.

26. According to Marine sniper superstition, there is ultimately one round destined to end the life of a Marine, and that is “the round with your name on it.” Until that round is fired, the person for whom it is intended remains invincible. If the sniper carries the round with him at all times, it can never be fired and the sniper is therefore untouchable. Out of school, a Marine sniper carries the colloquial title “PIG,” or a Professionally Instructed Gunman, until he has killed an enemy sniper in combat and removed the round with his name on it from the enemy sniper’s magazine. That round is then worn as a necklace and symbolizes his new status as a HOG, or “Hunter of Gunmen.”

27. Ever since Vietnam, Marine amtrac crews will not eat apricots, as they’re considered bad luck.

28. Marines also think it’s unlucky to eat the CHARMS that used to come in packs of meals ready to eat.

29. Marines are often called jarheads because of their high-and-tight haircuts, but some Marines take this cut to the extreme. Unauthorized haircuts include the horseshoe and the mohawk.

A Really Dry Heat: TEAM USO Runner Trains for Marine Corps Marathon in Kuwaiti Desert

Kuwait is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking of training grounds for the 39th Marine Corps Marathon, but that’s what Jason Lewis signed up for when he joined TEAM USO. The former Marine and former USO staff member began training for his 26.2-mile trek while working at USO Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

Jason Lewis

Jason Lewis

“The heat would [get] up to 130 degrees, so it made it very hard to get motivated to get outside and do long miles,” Lewis said, adding that he’s enjoying the cooler Michigan air while finishing up his training. “I adopted the method of doing what I could and took advantage of cool mornings.”

Lewis’ firsthand knowledge of the USO’s impact on troops kept him motivated throughout the training process.

“I believe in what the USO does and want to do anything I can do to help out,” he said, recalling his time in the service. “Every time I passed through an airport, I would stop at the USO center.”

Lewis even recruited friend and fellow Marine, Ryan Taylor, to TEAM USO.

“When I asked [Ryan] to run with me, it was kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “We had been talking about getting out there and doing some runs and fitness stuff. I was like ‘Hey, we can raise some money for a great organization. I’m on the inside, so I know what the money goes to.’ So he was on board as soon as I told him that we should do it.”

Combined, the friends have raised nearly $3,000 for the USO. Lewis and Taylor are not alone in their TEAM USO fundraising efforts. So far, the team of 30 Marine Corps Marathon runners has raised more than $35,000 as part of this year’s marathon.

“I’m proud to be raising money for the USO, and hopefully, I can raise a few more dollars by the end of the year,” Lewis said.

Find out more about TEAM USO and their fundraising efforts for the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon on the TEAM USO Marine Corps Marathon homepage.

–Jessica Battaglia, USO

USO Pacific VP Harris Marks 25 Years of Serving Troops

USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes presents USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris a 25-year service coin Friday at USO Arlington in Virginia. Photo by Samantha Quigley

USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes presents USO Pacific Regional Vice President Carly Harris a 25-year service coin Friday at USO Arlington in Virginia. Photo by Samantha Quigley

Carly Harris is an ever-present supporter of America’s troops. On Friday, she got a little recognition of her own.

Harris, USO Pacific regional vice president, was honored for her 25 years of service to the organization during a ceremony Friday afternoon at the USO offices in Arlington, Va.

Harris’ USO career includes stints as director of operations for USO Europe, a leading role in the development of the USO’s presence in Southwest Asia, and the director’s post at USO Wiesbaden/Mainz.

Congratulations Carly!


2013 Warrior Games Highlights

The fourth annual Warrior Games has come to a close in Colorado Springs, and though it was close competition with the Army in every event, the Marines brought home the Chairman’s Cup once again.

“Congratulations to all of the 2013 Warrior Games competitors,” said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the U.S. Olympic Committee, during the closing ceremony. “While we celebrate medals, this competition is really an example of how sport can change lives. We hope these service members and veterans don’t stop here. The goal is for them to return home and get involved in sport programs in their communities.”

The competition formally ended Thursday night at the U.S. Air Force Academy in a ceremony honoring the nearly 200 wounded troops and disabled veterans who represented their services in the inaugural Warrior Games.

Troops and veterans from the U.S. and Britain competed in a week-long series of paralympic-type events at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at the academy. They were challenged as individuals and as teams in shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, wheelchair basketball and track and field events.

The USO and all of the volunteers from Colorado were proud to stand by the side of these elite athletes throughout the week of Paralympic competition. Please enjoy this montage of footage from the past week of Warrior Games competition.

–Video and story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO staff writer

A Dog Tag’s Tale: USO Las Vegas Volunteer Reunites Vet with Dad’s Lost Tags from World War II

My name is Gene Dannan, and I volunteer at the USO Center at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas each Tuesday.


After an exhaustive search, USO Las Vegas volunteer Gene Dannan was able to ship the decades-old dog tags – which had huge sentimental value – to their rightful owner on the other side of the country. Photo courtesy of Gene Dannan

On June 12, fellow volunteer Denny Schaan and I were handed some military ID cards to copy and then shred for security reasons. Along with these ID cards were three sets of dog tags that had been turned into the airport’s lost-and-found office and then handed off to the USO. Denny handed me a metal ring that had two sets of dog tags on it, both from Marines. The older of the two tags was from World War II and dated June 1944. The name on the tag was Ferdinand Forst. The second tag did not have a date, but had the name Bruce J. Forst.

Schaan did a routine search of ancestry.com and found that Ferdinand Forst had died in 1986, but there was no additional information available.

From the moment that I received these tags, I felt there had to be a story connected to them. Before I left the USO Center, I got the go ahead from USO Las Vegas Programs Manager Marianne Wojciechowicz to take the tags home and try to find their owner.

First, I tried to locate Ferdinand Forst, but I didn’t have much luck other than the date of his death. Next, I started doing Internet searches on Bruce J. Forst. I immediately found entries for someone with the same name who lived in Huntington, N.Y., which is on Long Island.

The assessor’s office in Huntington gave me information about the property. Unfortunately, the Forsts’ home phone number was unlisted. I tried other routes to get the number, but kept coming up empty.

I tried calling the veterans’ cemetery in Huntington, looking for information on Ferdinand that would lead to Bruce. No luck there, either.

Running short on options, I called the Veterans Affairs office in Huntington. I explained who I was to the woman who answered the phone – Carol Rocco – and told her what I was trying to do. She was really helpful, making a few quick checks to confirm my information was accurate.

Rocco couldn’t believe I’d been able to locate the owner of the dog tags by just doing a few hours of work. She suggested I try sending a letter to Bruce at his listed address telling him about the dog tags. That idea had already crossed my mind, but I’d been hoping to speak with Bruce personally to let him know exactly who I was and what I was trying to do.

I asked Rocco if she would be kind enough to take my contact information and deliver it to the address. Realizing I was imposing on her time, I was surprised when she said she’d be happy to help me out.

Rocco’s office is about a mile from Bruce’s listed address. On the afternoon of June 14, she rang the doorbell, but no one was home. She left my contact information and a brief explanation of what I was trying to do in the mailbox. As it turns out, Bruce has been divorced from his wife for about a decade, but on Sunday, June 17 – at an annual Fathers Day get together – Bruce received my name, phone number and the rest of my story from his ex-wife. Around 12:30 p.m. Las Vegas time, I got a very excited voicemail from him.  I called him back a few minutes later, got his home phone number, home address and a brief history of how and when the dog tags had been lost.

Bruce said he had been in McCarran Airport on April 20, 2011, heading back to his home in New York when he lost the dog tags. He thought he’d never see them again. Bruce said his tags dated to when he served in the Marine Corps on their championship baseball team in 1960 and 1961.

After talking to him for a few minutes, I found out that his father, Ferdinand, was a Marine who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. Ferdinand continued to serve until December 1945. He died on Super Bowl Sunday, January 26, 1986.

Bruce – also known as Scott R. Forst – has had an interesting life. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers Rookies and then joined the Marine Corps in 1957 and played on the All-Marine Corps baseball team at Camp LeJeune, N.C. In 1961 he played as a minor league catcher and outfielder in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ system as well as the San Francisco Giants’ winter team. Unfortunately, an injury ended his professional baseball career that year.

He became a detective with Suffolk County, N.Y., Police Department and was awarded several medals. Along with his sports and police service background he has also worked as a sports artist. 

In the end, the dog tags ended up in his grateful hands. I feel very lucky that I was able to reunite him with a piece of family history.

–Gene Dannan, USO Las Vegas Volunteer