Honorary Marine

Official Marine Corps Logo.

Well, I had caught an article over on the Marine Corps Times about Karen Guenther, a Marine wife who founded and heads the Semper Fi Fund, and after reading it and about the charity, I decided to look into the designation of Honorary Marine.

Some time ago, I wrote about Honorary Chief Petty Officers.  Well, the Honorary Marine program is much the same.  “Honorary Marine” is a title that has been given to various people by the United States Marine Corps.

  It’s a distinction that is currently bestowed solely by the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps to "individuals in the civilian community who have made extraordinary contributions to the Marine Corps.”

There are many individuals that have earned the designation – for example, an individual mentioned in the earlier article, actor Gary Sinise received the designation in 2013.  And is anyone surprised to learn that Chuck Norris was granted the designation back in 2007? (Chuck also was made an honorary Texas Ranger, but that’s drifting a bit). And, speaking of surprises, Jim Nabors received the designation back in 2001 (and in 2007 was promoted to Honorary Corporal).

Marine Corps Order 5060.19B is the governing instruction concerning the nomination and award of the title “Honorary Marine”.  The intent is to appropriately recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves through noteworthy service or support to the Marine Corps based on service and support to the Marine Corps that is considered to “clearly surpass the norm”.

  And - as is the case with Honorary Chief Petty Officer – the nomination is backed by substantial factual data regarding the individual’s service to and support of the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps maintains a list of awardees - some only by name, others with a bit of back story - at US Marine Corps Public Relations – Honorary Marine.

  The current official program has been in effect since 1992, making the list a bit short.

Other criteria for the title includes a terminally ill child that has some unique or qualifying link to the military or the Marine Corps (recent examples being Andrew Starr II and Ethan Arbelo), or a deceased individual whose actions or contributions on behalf of the Marine Corps would have merited consideration before their death (recent example being U.S. Representative. C.W. Bill Young).

Nor is the honor restricted to U. S. Citizens – in 2011, Machiko Hamamoto was granted the title; in 2010, Retired Royal Australian Marine, Col. Ivan J. Cahill received the award; in 2007 Gilles Lagin received the award.

As I earlier stated, the current program was started in 1992.  Even so, according to the book Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego [ISBN 0738588784], "For his extraordinary work in the film and his accurate portrayal, Lon Chaney, Sr. was chosen to become an honorary Marine, the first film star given that honor".  The film being Tell It To The Marines, a 1926 silent movie.

Getting back to the article that prompted this ramble, the Semper Fi Fund began with only $500 in 2004 and has an A+ Top Rated Charity from CharityWatch.

  Since its beginning – and relying completely on donations from generous individuals (such as Bob Barker, who in 2011 donated $2 million), corporations, foundations, and community groups – the Semper Fi Fund has given away close to $100 million to post-9/11 Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and reservists with amputations, spinal cord injuries, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), burns, blindness, other physical injuries, or those suffering from life-threatening illnesses via programs such as Family Support, Adaptive Housing, Adaptive Transportation, Specialized Equipment, Education and Career Transitioning, Rehabilitative Sports programs, and more.  The program also offers assistance to spouses and children of active duty service members who face a life threatening illness or injury.