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A Ringing Endorsement

 

 
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The Value of an Hnorable Discharge
By
Sergeant Major Alford L. McMichael

Fellow Marines, let me reemphasize a simple, but sometimes-overlooked truth: the characterization of your discharge will impact your opportunities for success in the future, and might affect your self-esteem and personal sense of pride. Occasionally, there are Marines who lose sight of this fact and then have trouble dealing with the consequences.

For example, in a recent letter to the editor of one of our professional journals, an individual wrote to express his concerns about having received an Other Than Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps. Interestingly, he said that he felt bad about his separation because the Corps had been a major part of his life, and it had given him a great sense of honor and responsibility. His main point, however, was that he didn’t understand why he couldn’t get a second chance to correct his missteps. He knew that he had violated the trust and confidence placed in him as a Marine, and understood that the Marine Corps had to take legal action in his case. Still, the writer appeared to be genuinely dejected by his separation and its characterization. While I don’t know the details of the incident, I was struck by the emotion in the letter. Its strong appeal for a second chance suggested that civilian life might not have been going well for this individual. His situation highlighted the fact that an Other Than Honorable Discharge has negative long-term consequences.

It is important to remember that the characterization of your discharge will depend entirely on the nature of your service. Most Marines perform their duties and conduct themselves in the manner in which they are expected, and will thereby rate a favorable characterization. However, these papers are not “rubber stamped.” Our profession requires that our standards of behavior be higher than the norm. We insist on discipline, integrity, and courage because the nature of warfare requires that we obey orders, trust each other, and be able to set our fears aside in order to accomplish the mission. If you meet these standards and perform your duties as expected, then at the end of your days in uniform, you will receive a ringing endorsement that carries the full confidence of the United States Marine Corps -- an Honorable Discharge.

An Honorable Discharge is more than a piece of paper that you are given at the end of your enlistment. It is a document that shows that you have served your country faithfully and honestly. It is a reflection of your commitment to duty, and demonstrates that you have done your part to protect and advance our national interests. In short, an Honorable Discharge is, as our Commandant has stated, “both a sign of dedication to the prosperity of our nation and a measure of personal character.”

An Honorable Discharge can also be considered your ticket to success because it is an effective endorsement from the U.S. Marine Corps that tells prospective employers or college admissions committees that you are dependable and reliable. Since hard work and personal responsibility are familiar concepts to Marines, it also says that you can remain committed to a cause and see it through to its completion. Moreover, it correctly implies that by virtue of your military service, you are better equipped than your civilian counterparts to overcome adversity and find solutions under stressful conditions.

These distinctions are important because there are a growing number of employers who give hiring preferences to former service members. They recognize, especially in the case of Marines, that your training has given you a sense of discipline, honor, and commitment that many of your civilian peers do not have. In the business world, managers see this as translating into greater efficiency and productivity. However, not everyone who served in the military has these attributes. Therefore, the “truth teller” that lets an employer know if you are going to “measure up” is the characterization of your discharge. An honorable characterization suggests that you have these attributes, and will therefore be an asset to any employer.

An Honorable Discharge also affords you civil service preference in the federal government, as well as many state, and local governments. Municipal employers, such as the police and fire departments, often favor former military members not only because of the training that we receive, but also because those jobs require disciplined professionals who can think quickly on their feet. They want people who are trustworthy and reliable, and are able to work both independently and as part of a team.
 
For some, the greatest utility of an Honorable Discharge is that it entitles you to all the benefits the Veterans Administration (VA) offers. These include the educational packages known as the Montgomery G. I. Bill (MGIB) and the Marine Corps College Fund (MCCF). The MGIB provides up to $19,296 dollars, and the MCCF will grant up to $50,000 dollars to pay for your college. Other VA benefits include the VA home loan guarantee, which allows you to purchase a home with little or no down payment. This provides great assistance to first-time homebuyers and young Marines who may have limited savings. The privilege of receiving medical treatment at VA medical centers is another benefit. Treatment at these centers is guaranteed even if the injuries or illnesses occur after you leave active service.

Although we can assign these benefits a dollar value, in terms of their positive effects on a member, we consider them priceless. By paying for your education, easing the burden of buying a home, and ensuring your access to medical care, they contribute greatly to helping you reach your full potential and realize the “American dream.”
 
Other advantages that an Honorable Discharge guarantees include the privilege of retaining your eligibility to join the Reserve or National Guard. Joining the Marine Corps Reserve is a great way to continue serving our country and Corps. The Reserves allow you to pursue a civilian career while remaining strongly connected to our Corps.
For non-U.S. citizens serving in the military, an Honorable Discharge helps to speed up the naturalization process, provided they meet other requirements. Incidentally, current law requires that the Marine Corps notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service to revoke the citizenship of naturalized citizens who receive an Other Than Honorable Discharge.

Finally, an Honorable Discharge allows you the distinction of being laid to rest at one of our nation’s federal cemeteries. If you or your family desires, you will receive full military honors and the VA will fund the headstone or flag for the burial. This is our grateful nation’s final “thank you” for your honest and faithful service.

The above-mentioned are just some of the material benefits that an Honorable Discharge guarantees. They are important to us because they produce visible results. This makes them seem more like a “reward” for our service. However, there is one other benefit that, although it is more difficult to measure, is just as rewarding. This intangible benefit is, perhaps, the most gratifying of all -- the pride that comes from knowing that you served your country -- rising to the challenge, meeting your obligation, and performing as expected.

When you return to civilian society, you will have every reason to walk proudly and with your head held high. That pride will be rooted not only in the personal satisfaction that comes from having served our nation as a Marine, but also in the certain knowledge that your Corps and country are grateful for your service and will always stand beside you. An Honorable Discharge will always follow you as a mark of your accomplishment, and precede you as sign of your potential.

After you’ve used the scholarship money to advance your education, and the VA loan to purchase a house, the satisfaction of knowing that you served faithfully and honorably will always remain. You will never have to second guess yourself and wonder “what might have been” had you earned an Honorable Discharge. You can forever be secure in your knowledge — with well-deserved contentment — that you did something important for our nation, that by your honorable service, you contributed to maintaining our country as the shining example of freedom, and helped to maintain our Corps as America’s premier fighting force. In the end, you can stand with your head held high as living proof that, for 224 years, our Corps has been making Marines, winning battles, and returning responsible citizens to society.


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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