Semper Sigh…

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Marine Photo / Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee

Marines at Parris Island, April 2012

The Marines are the neatest military service (at least in their eyes) and the other military services know it (at least in their eyes).

This drives the Army, Air Force and Navy up the wall.

It particularly bugs the Navy, because – after all – the Marines technically fall under the Navy’s umbrella. Both services report to the Navy secretary, for example, even though each is commanded by a four-star officer.

The Navy also drives the Marines off to wars, and provides them with uniformed doctors, chaplains and other un-Marine-like personnel.

The Marines have just so much esprit de (Marine) corps, you might say.

The most recognizable and memorable phrase associated with the Marine Corps is official—the motto Semper Fidelis, emblazoned on the official “Eagle, Globe, and Anchor” emblem. Often shortened to Semper Fi, the phrase is part of the Corps’ vernacular, routinely used by Marines of every rank. The Navy also has an official motto: Semper Fortis. It is rarely used—conversationally or officially.

…Navy Captain Michael Junge wrote in the February issue of Proceedings, the independent naval journal.

The Navy plainly wants some of that motto mojo for itself, and the culture that inculcates it.

Readers have responded. “Every Sailor a…seaman?…mariner?…shipmate?…bluejacket?…man-o’warsman? (The last two are very old school!) I think `shipmate,’ may be the best, because it connotes a sense of teamwork, comradeship, and loyalty to one’s unit,” one posted in response to Junge’s article.

“I still believe implementing the use of Semper Fortis is an appropriate and straight-forward step toward building our identity, our culture,” wrote a second.

One offered a more distant view: “Navy, the Crew of Spaceship Earth.”

Reader Thomas Motika has a letter on the topic in the April Proceedings:

My suggestion is to use the Latin phrase Semper Constans or “always constant (trustworthy).” The Latin word constans is defined as “steady, firm, unchanging, constant, and unwavering.” There is even a Latin expression Constans and Fidelis, “trustworthy and faithful.”

But he ultimately circled back to a phrase Junge had mentioned in his original piece:

The expression “Every sailor is a sailor” comes alive when we look at the Latin equivalent: Semper Nauta or “always a sailor.” No matter what the job or where it is, being in the Navy is to be first and foremost a sailor.

Every sailor is a sailor? Dross.

Semper Nauta? Gold.