Editor's Note: On 23 April 1998, The Wall Street Journal's Pentagon correspondent and the author of Making the Corps (Scribner, 1997), delivered this address to several hundred active duty and retired military professionals at the Naval Academy. His speech was a highlight of the Naval Institute's 124th Annual Meeting and Eighth Annapolis Seminar.
I want to talk today about what I fear may be a decline in American military professionalism. But I want to begin by talking about a dog I saw when I was writing my book about the Marine Corps.
I was in Hartsville, South Carolina, visiting a former Marine. The guy had been an artillery officer for a few years during the Vietnam War, but had been out for 20 years. I walked into his house and he said, "Mr. Ricks, meet my dog, Brittany." I said, "Hi, Brittany." He said, "Brittany, tell Mr. Ricks, would you rather be in the Army or be dead?" And the dog rolls over and puts his four paws in the air. I thought to myself, "Now that's one powerful culture that the Marine Corps has. Not only is the guy thinking like a Marine after 20 years out, his dog is thinking like a Marine."