What Did I Fight For?

I am a Marine.  I retired after twenty years of honorable service to my country; a country I loved so much that I honestly believed that dying for its noble causes was something I understood was a possibility.  I was willing to make that sacrifice so that future generations could enjoy the freedoms that make America great.

I was a Vietnam era Marine.  Although I never was sent to this country, I faced anger from my fellow citizens every time I was in my uniform.  I was asked to leave a restaurant while in uniform because “my kind are just not welcomed here.”  I have stood in bars while in uniform and had family members whose loved one died in Vietnam yell at me because “we should have never been there.”  I was called a baby killer, a monster, and words I can’t repeat just because I wore my Marine Corps uniform with pride.  In every case, I was respectful because I understood that these people were exercising their freedom to speak their minds.  Yes, I would sometimes engage in honest debate and sometimes I even made them rethink their position.  But I served so that they could speak freely.

I was a Marine who served under President Nixon, President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President Bush, and President Clinton.  Although I did not agree with the politics of some of these men, they were the duly elected President of the United States and as a Marine, they were my Commander-in-Chief.  So, I showed respect for each and every one of them because of the office they filled.  I served these leaders because I believed that our Constitution was greater than any one man who filled the office of President.

I was a Marine who served in hot spots.  When President Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya, I was part of the task force assigned to that mission.  When President Reagan ordered mine sweeping helicopters deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1987, I was part of that task force.  I served in the Pacific theater, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the far east, the middle east, the east coast, the west coast, and the deep south of the United States – wherever I was sent, I served because my loyalty was to the people of our great country.

Now, as a Marine who has been retired for over twenty, I look at what is going on in this country and I shake my head in bewilderment.

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Our brave men and women have been fighting in armed conflicts since 2003 and yet a bunch millionaire professional football player kneeling during the national anthem gets the love and admiration of the press.  Do they have the right to kneel?  Absolutely – that is why I served (Side note, our military members cannot disobey orders and take a knee in protest but they defend the rights of those who do.).  But if their real reason is to protest the actions of police toward minorities, wouldn’t they be more effective by going into the communities of concern and working with the residents and the local police departments to establish trust and to help bring solutions?  How about working with the many schools that are failing to truly prepare our children to succeed in the business world?  How about standing up to face the problems instead of kneeling to get attention on oneself?
Our brave men and women serve in outposts all across this globe to ensure that any threat to the United States can be met with swift and decisive action.  That action will be ordered by our President.  And back home, we have people who state loudly that “He is not my President.”  Our schools have failed our people because they have not taught our children the great foresight exhibited by our founding fathers when they created the Electoral College system.  The media takes great delight in condemning every action of this President so that they can create a “we verse them” mentality so that everyone feels they must be on one side or another.  So, the message is that if you are against this President, you are part of the cool crowd but if you are for him, you are a racist, hate-monger.  But our military continues to keep every American safe because they took an oath “…to obey the orders of the President and the Officers appointed over me…”  See, they put the welfare of all Americans first.  Wouldn’t we all be better off if we thought like our military?
Our brave men and women serve together as Americans.  Race, religion, ethnicity, gender mean nothing when the enemies of America are trying to kill you.  The only thing you care about is that the person on your right and your left is going to fight to the death for you just as you are going to fight to the death for him or her.  We need to stop identifying ourselves as African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc.  We need to just be Americans.  My grandparents legally immigrated to this country from Poland.  My father was the first of their children born in this country.  He grew up being told by his father that he was lucky because he was an American.  My father served his country in World War 2 as part of the 101st Airborne Division.  And when I joined the Marine Corps, he was proud that I had chosen to serve the country he fought to preserve.  My father was an American.  I am an American.  Can’t we all just be Americans and proud of that fact? [/message][su_spacer]

What did I fight for?  I fought for it all.  The good things that make us all proud of our country.  The mistakes that make America hang its head in shame.  The far left who want a socialist society while complaining of interference in our elections by the Russians, a socialist society.  The far right who use hate to elevate themselves and justify treating others as less than human.  The rich, the poor, the middle class.  The weak, the strong, the smart, and the downright insane.  I fought for your right to protest and I fought for my right to embrace this country’s greatness in spite of its faults.  I was a Marine for twenty years – I am still a Marine today – and I will die a proud Marine.  I fought for the greatest country that has ever existed because it is a country that added a Bill of Rights to our Constitution so that the basic freedoms of its people would be protected.

So, now, I ask you.  As we prepare to close out this year and begin a new year.  Can we make a commitment to ourselves to use 2018 to listen more and talk less – to be more understanding and less judgmental – to see our past, mistakes and all, as the means by which we have become a nation envied by the rest of the world – and most importantly, to work together to find solutions to our problems; uniting as Americans to ensure the freedoms we have enjoyed for over 200 years will be available to our future generations.  Isn’t that worth fighting for?

People tell you that you are a good leader. But that’s not enough for you. You want to be an exemplary leader – the kind of leader whose team will follow him or her into any situation. But how can you gain the skills that will take your leadership to this ultimate goal? Step one is to grab your copy of Len’s new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. There are no words to express how grateful I am to live in an America protected by you and those in service in our military past and present. As I was reading your article Willie Nelson just happen to be singing “Whiskey for my men and beer for my Horses”.

    • Arlene – I wish that song had been playing when I wrote this piece – I seems to go well with the words on paper. Thank you for you kind words. I hope others are moved to make an effort to bring America back to its original values during 2018.

  2. I am always in awe in how the media presents heroes. They spend so much time crafting a ridiculous narrative making someone something they’re not. The military, on the other hand, do not need to make things up. They are heroes because of what they did. Heroes protect. Heroes sacrifice. Heroes help people survive.

    What makes heroes good heroes is the same as what makes leaders good leaders.

    • Chris – You have added valuable insight with your comment. Thank you – just love the last like “What makes heroes good heroes is the same as what makes leaders good leader.” I may have to use this in many a discussion.

  3. Uurraahh, Len. I have become discouraged about where we’re going, so it’s great to have someone remind me that we do still care. I remember the post-Vietnam era – not being allowed to wear our Marine uniforms because it put us in danger on our own streets. I cannot help but think we are in that very weird, uncomfortable time where things have to get worse before they get better. Kinda like to hit the bottom sooner than later.

    On a personal note – proud to see what you’ve done with your writing and letting everyone know what it means to be a Marine.

    • Carol – So few people understand the commitment that comes with serving in our military services. Unless a person has actually served, they will never understand why we love our country as we do and why we fight, even after our discharge, to keep our country great. Once you have literally dodged a bullet, held the hand of a wounded friend, seen the despair in the eyes of those we have been called to help and the gratitude they show for our presence, then you see just how fortunate we are to be Americans. Somehow, the story needs to be heard so we can work together to overcome what is truly wrong with our country and stop rioting because someone wants to say something we don’t like. I hope this article is the first candle that sheds light on our current darkness.

      Thanks for the encouragement on the book and thanks for your continued support.

  4. I am truly short of words to appreciate the human character, deep emotions, love for the motherland and do-or-die attitude displayed by my True Friend and Inspiration, Len Bernard!

    Having read your book, I can relate to your deepest emotions and the feeling of Victory Over Evil in every one of your life’s decisions, Sir!

    Please accept my Warm Regards with an Humble Salute!

    Thank You!

    • Bharat – Thank you. I am grateful that by reading my book, you understand the depth of emotion in this article. Your ability to see into the souls of fellow writers is truly a gift. So proud to call you my friend.

  5. Len, I was never a Marine, but I so enjoyed your article. Thanks to all services, Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Police Officers, Firefighters, and any I have left out. You having served in the Marien Corps, I am so so grateful, but grateful to God that you served there and even after God and Country.

    • Lynn – Thank you for your kind word. I was asked once why a person should join the Marine Corps. I tld him that I was in places where people were trying to kill me and it is still the best job I ever had. I still feel that way. And I agree all those who give selflessly deserve our respect.

    • Danny – Your words touch my heart because only a fellow Marine will understand the sincerity with which I formed the words for this article. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. And thank you for being one of those Marines who served before me but set the high standards by which our beloved Corps has away operated. We who served in the past set the example for today’s Corp. Semper Fi, my fellow jarhead.

  6. Very well said, Len. Wish more people would read this message and others like it. Perhaps some of them would even be openminded enough to take it to heart. Of course, we would have to exempt those in the NFL that it seems do not have enough of a mind to comprehend what is right from what is wrong.

    Anyway, thanks for all you and your fellow service members have done and continue to do to protect our freedoms.

    • Ken – Thank you so much for your kind words. I, like you, hope the message I tried to convey races across our nation and causes people to pause, just for a minute, and reflect on just how lucky we are to be Americans.