It is difficult to believe that anyone who’s served since 9/11 can be without something, anything, to believe in. There are many; the following is but a short offering.
Believe in the rich, proud histories of our Navy, our Marine Corps, and our Coast Guard—legacies we are charged to continue.
Believe that military service opens the doors of opportunity to young men and women of any background, offering success based on their own ability, hard work, and initiative.
Believe in the sacrifices made by our predecessors and shipmates; believe that we owe them a debt of gratitude repaid only by our own service.
Believe in the combined might of our military forces to do great good or rain great destruction as appropriate.
Believe that 30 servicemen, including 22 members of SEAL Team Six, sacrificed their lives on 6 August 2011 while en route to support their comrades in arms because bad people still wish to do bad things, and someone must stop them.
Believe that no matter how long it takes, and no matter where it hides, our servicemen and women will find evil and destroy it.
Believe that the gist of this variously attributed quote correctly explains why we maintain fighting forces as a nation and why we serve as individuals: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
In many cases, the “what for?” is right in front of us. Even if one finds nothing else of value, one only needs to look at his or her shipmates for something to believe in. This is especially true for anyone in a leadership position. If your purpose is to lead, guide, and train subordinates, believe that you must diligently prepare them for what lies ahead. Commanders are responsible for the personal well-being and professional development of sailors, Marines, and guardians, and there is no greater privilege than being entrusted with leading America’s fighting men and women.
Each man and woman matters because regardless of one’s primary duty—from the ship’s laundry to its weapon systems, from the small-engine mechanic to the combat aviator—each is important to the unit’s mission. Every individual plays a part in the unit’s success, which contributes to the success of ever higher echelons, until ultimately the success or failure of our national strategy is at stake. Stated plainly, every individual contribution—positive or negative—has an impact on tactical, strategic, or diplomatic outcome.
If still lacking an answer, service members should engage their chain-of-command candidly. Their leaders will likely have a personalized vision about why our nation maintains naval forces, but it may lead to discovery of one’s own “what for?”
No matter where or how you serve, naval service provides an abundance of “something” to believe in. What’s yours?
Senior Chief Murphy transferred to the Fleet Reserve in 2008 after 21 years of active service. He served his entire career in the cryptologic community and was a qualified submariner.