All Things Soldier: The Semper Fi Approach To Spiritual Fitness

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
For several years Athens Now has discussed the spiritual assault on our troops through examples of the restriction of their religious liberties in such places as the United States Air Force Academy, the removal of Bibles from MWR (Morale, Welfare Recreation) hotel nightstands, the forbidding of praying in Jesus’ name, and the oxymoronic ordination of “atheist chaplains.”

There is good news, though, of a pushback that unsurprisingly has the Marines running point on the op. General Robert B. Neller, who is the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, had the following to say to his “Leathernecks”:
“Fitness is a vital part of being a United States Marine. Although we all understand the importance of being physically fit, it is also important to remember the other three aspects of overall fitness: spiritual, mental, and social. All of these aspects are essential to the well-being of each individual Marine and Sailor, and our Corps as a whole…

Research indicates that spiritual fitness plays a key role in resiliency, in our ability to grow, develop, recover, heal, and adapt. Regardless of individual philosophy or beliefs, spiritual well-being makes us better warriors and people of character capable of making good choices on and off duty…

By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and Sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our Nation expects…”

What? Where is Mikey Weinstein (not to be confused with the nefarious Harvey) when you need him to be a whistleblower or watchdog protecting our troops from religion, which Marx calls the “opiate of the masses”? Well, predictably, Mikey didn’t stay silent for long. His response to the General was:

“This is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

The point that Mikey is missing is that General Neller has an endgame that is steadfastly secular: “Spiritual well-being makes us better warriors and people of character capable of making good choices on and off duty.” He didn’t say how, he just said that it does, and Mikey has no leverage because it is up to the individual to figure out what that means for him or her.

The Marine’s most senior enlisted leader, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green is part of the pushback. On November 27, he made it clear that an aspect of spiritual fitness has to do with resolving differences and coming to the place where they will lay down their lives for each other on the battlefield. He also said that in his 34-year career he had never seen a Marine refuse to participate when a chaplain uttered some of the most comforting words on earth: “Let us pray.” He also had this to say:

“We set aside all of those differences to go forward and be willing to die for the very people that we love, for the nation, the Constitution and the flag that we honor,” said Green. “That’s the unique thing.”

Green had been called upon to address leaders from all of the branches to clarify the concept of spiritual fitness, with the great irony being that at the end of the day, spiritual things, be they fitness or anything else, just can’t be clarified through the use of one’s noggin. However, he did say this:

“Well, if you believe in God, yeah, we’re talking about that. But we’re really talking about that spirit regardless of where we come from.

We truly understand that’s an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the soldier, sailor, airmen, Marine, Coast Guardsmen, National Guardsmen to our left and to our right – to say, ‘If you’re down on the battlefield, I’m coming to get you,’” he said.
That, ladies and gentlemen is what it means to be Semper Fidelis, always faithful, and if the Corps has anything to do with it, no one is going to take that away from our Leathernecks or any other service member, ever.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner