I am a Former U.S. Marine – what about you?

Recently, on another blog, I was chastised in a reply to one of my comments where I mentioned I was a former Marine.  The Blog post was about Trump wanting to arm teachers to protect our public schools. I was against that insane, stupid idea from the serial lying, Orange Dumpster who is also known to me as the Kremlin’s Agent Orange. I have no respect for Donald Trump. I despise this poor excuse for a human being.

My anonymous critic was allegedly a she, and she had never been a U.S. Marine because she pointed out in her comment that all the Marines she knew referred to themselves as inactive Marines and that she had never heard anyone refer to themselves as a former Marine.  The way she wrote her comment made it sound like I was a liar and had never been a U.S. Marine.

To be clear, I have been an active Marine, an inactive Marine, and finally a former Marine. I’ve been a former Marine for a long time and it is going to stay that way up to my last heart beat and breathe. I wouldn’t accept one million dollars to become an active Marine again, but I also wouldn’t accept a million dollars to sell my experiences as a U.S. Marine to someone else.

An active U.S. Marine is still in uniform and belongs to the U.S. government.  Believe me when I say that when you join any of the branches of the U.S. military, you basically become a slave with a wage, and my DD-214 clearly shows I was an active Marine from May 1965 to May 1968 when I was released from active duty and became an inactive Marine until the end of my reserve obligation. During the years I was in the inactive reserves, I could have been called back to active duty at any time.

That inactive duty ended on January 20, 1971 when I became a free civilian again and was officially a former Marine.

The VA says, “A person who is active duty is in the military full time. They work for the military full time, may live on a military base, and can be deployed at any time. Persons in the Reserve or National Guard are not full-time active duty military personnel, although they can be deployed at any time should the need arise.”

The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve says, “The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is a category of the Ready Reserve of the Reserve Component of the Armed Forces of the United States composed of former active duty or reserve military personnel, and is authorized under 10 U.S.Code Section 1005.  The IRR is composed of enlisted personnel and officers, from all ranges of Military Occupational Specialties including combat arms, combat support, and combat service support.

“Individuals assigned to the IRR receive no pay and are not obligated to drill, conduct annual training, or participate in any military activities (except for periodic Muster activities) until ordered by Presidential Authority.  Individuals who are assigned to an “Inactive Status” are entitled to limited benefits.  These benefits include:  Entitlement to a Military ID Card, ID Cards for their dependents, PX (Exchange) benefits, Commissary benefits, and MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) Benefits.”

My inactive status as a U.S. Marine ended forty-seven years ago in 1971. That was when I became a former Marine. Any former Marine that claims they are an inactive Marine and they are not in the IRR or the Ready Reserve is technically wrong. It doesn’t matter what they think, they are wrong if they call themselves an inactive Marine once they become a civilian again with no official, legal ties to the Marine Corps. I was once an active Marine and will always think and react like a Marine. Marines belong to a unique tribe, a brotherhood of warriors trained to kill in combat, but once we leave active or inactive duty, we are a former Marine.

My Honorable Discharge is dated January 20, 1971 … not May 17, 1968 when I left active duty for inactive duty.

Here’s why I’m writing this post. If there are former Marines out there calling themselves inactive Marines and they are not in the Marine reserves, they are doing real inactive Marines a disservice because those Marine are still in a position to be called up and sent into harm’s way on a moment’s notice, while former Marines are not in that same situation. If a former Marine wants to serve again, they have to return to active or inactive duty if the U.S. Marines will take them back.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

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4 thoughts on “I am a Former U.S. Marine – what about you?

  1. Your article is mainly about how one can call himself (or herself) a Marine at various stages in the experience: active, inactive, or former. Yet you also say you “… will always think and act like a Marine.” You belong “… to a unique tribe, a brotherhood of warriors trained to kill in combat.” Are you saying that when you became a former Marine you no longer thought and reacted like a Marine? Because that’s not what you said right before that statement. You said that you were once an active Marine. You said you would ALWAYS think and react like a Marine. I’m confused. Once a Marine, always a Marine?

    • Acting like an active Marine (in combat or stationed in the states or another friendly country that isn’t at war) is not the same thing as being influenced by having been a Marine.

      The U.S. Marine Corps boot camp is designed to break those young civilians that joined and then rebuilding them into a cog in a well-oiled, obedient machine designed to destroy anything and everyone in its path in a combat situation.

      Once an honorably discharged Marine leaves the military and returns to civilian life, they do not become the person they were before they went to boot camp. That experience in the Marines has changed them and they have become a different person. If that Marine Corps experience includes combat in a war zone, then the changes are even more extreme.

      After becoming a former Marine, we learn (consciously and/or unconsciously) how to reintegrate with civilian society but we will never be like civilians that never served and fought. That Marine experience changed us for the rest of our lives and some of us are extremely damaged.

      Once we have become a Marine, our mindset is always that of a Marine. There is no turning back to whatever we were before we went to boot camp.

      Marine Corps boot camp is the longest of the U.S. military branches. I’ve talked to younger Marines from other generations and Marine Corps boot camp is just as brutal and ruthless as it was in 1965 when I went through it.

      The only training that’s longer and much tougher is special forces and those troops go through even more extreme changes so it would be correct to say once in Speical forces, always in Speical Forces (at least in your mind, how you think, react, and who you are).

      A recruit that joins the military and survives to leave it is a different person than the one that comes out the other end.

      One of my younger friends who is also a former Marine and who went on to join special forces for almost a decade says that what we endured, the ruthless brutalization, in boot camp was the beginning of our PTSD and going through special forces training just digs a deeper hole for the PTSD that combat doesn’t help.

      Troops that make it through special forces training also go through SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape training) and that includes being tortured (electric shock, sleep deprivation, waterboarding) so they know what they will face if they are taken, prisoner. My friend that went through SERE said that was enough by itself to cause PTSD without even going into combat and he was sent into combat too and special forces teams face situations that are way more dangerous than what most of the military faces in combat.

      Since most if not all civilians who never served will never understand us, we seldom if ever share the experiences that happened to us with them. When we do, those innocent civilians often fall silent and look at us as if we are insane or nuts. That’s why the best support for combat vets is through the VA in organized peer support groups with other combat vets. We have been through the fire and we understand how that changes us so we can listen to the horrors that another combat vet experienced and the horrible things those horrors did to them and not judge them for what they did because we have all been there. I’ve also learned not to trust any counselors that never served in the military. It has been my experience that the best PTSD counselors are former military and/or combat vets themselves.

      The military life is a different world from the civilian one. Most if not all the freedoms that U.S.Constution protects are suspended when you are in the military. The law in the military is the uniform code of military justice and that isn’t the same as what the U.S constitution says. Many civilians also operate on the flawed assumption that freedom means they can do whatever they want. Once you’ve been in the miliary you should know that isn’t the fact. There are always limits on whatever freedom we are allowed to have.

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