By Jim Kuiken
In the Marine Reconnaissance community, Sacrifice and Loss are inevitable. As the old adage goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” And in this line of work, Recon Marines are asked to venture and risk much, on behalf of our Country, the Corps, and our brotherhood.
Unlike most U.S. Special Operations forces, little is heard about Recon and Force Recon Marines, because the mission that these Marines perform is fundamentally different from most others. Reconnaissance Marines are tasked with exactly what the name says…reconnaissance. And that requires that they perform their primary mission of gathering information and intelligence, sometimes deep behind enemy lines, without detection. There’s a basic concept in Recon, that not only do they conduct covert activities, but that if anyone spots them, or ever even knows they were there, the mission has been compromised. It’s like “We were never there…”
However, combat and covert activities are never pristine. As all military forces (especially Special Operations forces) know, combat is messy, and extremely dangerous. These risks are taken freely, but come with a very steep price – up to and including personal injury (physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual), and loss of life.
Sometimes these losses happen on the battlefield, and many times, up to decades later, in the oncology department fighting the effects of toxic exposures from Agent Orange, Burn Pits, and other toxins, and to the effects of giving in to the despair and weight of the demons they sometimes bring home from their combat experiences and losses.
All are losses directly connected to their willingness to serve, to take on the risk of becoming a Recon or Force Recon Marine.
So, Losses…these are many, felt by teammates, the larger military community, grateful citizens, and especially, the families of those lost.
And Sacrifices…these are made by the Marines as they choose this life, and in those moments of danger, when they willingly put themselves in harms way to support or protect their brothers and teammates on the battlefield. Unfortunately, many times at extreme risk to their own life – which frequently result in injury or death. And the sacrifice of their families, left behind.
And it is our responsibility to Honor those sacrifices, by the families, by those Reconnaissance Marines, who suffer the effects of their service, or who have paid the ultimate price while protecting our freedoms, and their own teammates. “No greater love…”
“Courage knows no gender. Courage knows no race. Courage comes from within, from a deeply ingrained sense of duty, from service to something bigger than just yourself... from love.”
To date, at least 540 Recon Marines (from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and numerous other areas around the world – some to never be known…) have paid the ultimate price, with their life. Their Loss, and their Sacrifice.
You can remember and Honor them here, on this virtual Wall of Honor.
And remember, "We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us."
To the “Silent Professionals” of Marine Reconnaissance, I sincerely “Thank you for your Service.”