The power of Tradition



That is probably the most boring picture I could choose to teach a lesson on the significance of tradition to Marines. Civillians will look at that and wonder if it is some kind of meringue pie. Other services will probably get that it is a “hat” but not know the significance. Even other Marines may recognize it as an officer’s dress blue cover, but not understand the significance of the braid design ( quatrefoil).

Instead of explaining it right away, I’m going to tell a marginally amusing story:

On her first thanksgiving as a married woman, Sue made the turkey the way her mom had shown her how. She put it in the roasting pan, cut off about two inches of the end, and roasted it. All the juices ran out the hole she cut, and it was dry. Her husband asked her why she cut off the end (he was smart. He didn’t finish the thought with “because that makes it dry”).

Sue’s only answer was that her mother did it that way. She called her mother the next day and asked her. Her mother just said it was what her mother always did. The next time she saw her, Sue asked her grandmother why she cooked her turkey that way. Her grandmother just said that was what her mother always did.

Now Sue was on a mission. She took a trip to see her great grandmother, about 3 hours each way. (She visited regularly, but this was unscheduled). After exchanging some pleasantries, Sue asked her great grandmother why she cooked her turkey that way.

“Oh, my pan was too small so I had to cut the butt off.”

I am not equating four generations of dry Thanksgiving turkeys to an obscure marking on Marine officers’ uniforms, except to point out that traditions are powerful and self-sustaining. If we understand and appreciate their root causes, our lives can be made better.

The purpose of the quatrefoil? In the days when Marines served both as sharpshooters in the rigging and on boarding parties, officers would wear that knot of rope on top of their covers so as to not be shot in the head by the exceedingly accurate fire of their men.

Today, it serves no utilitarian purpose. The days of swinging aboard an enemy ship in dress blues with a peaked cap are over. It only serves as a reminder of the significant history of the Corps, and binds Marines together in a communal respect for that history.

We have good reason to band together. You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you. The Marine Corps is a constant target of reorganization, disbanding, or subsumation efforts. I won’t argue the finer points of whether the nation needs a healthy Marine Corps here. Rather I will point out that it is this very attachment to our history and tradition that keeps us together, united in the defence of our beloved Corps.

So, when I show you the most boring picture in the world, understand that for Marines, it represents the very life-blood of our fraternity. You show that picture to a Marine, and odds are he will swell just a bit (more) with pride.

Semper Fi. (andvigilantia afterna)


“The Marine Corps is the Navy’s police force, and as long as I am President that is what it will remain. They have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.”

Harry S Truman



1 Comment

Filed under History, Marine, Marines

One response to “The power of Tradition

  1. Boudicca

    WONDERFUL! I knew the bit about the turkey, but not about the quatrefoil, which, I believe, is heraldic.

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