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Will Hayden: Happy Birthday Marine Corps

by Will Hayden   |  November 14th, 2011 42

Recently, I was invited to be the guest of honor at the Marine Corps Ball here in Louisiana. I then found out that they wanted me to be the guest of honor and that I would need to give a speech.

I think it goes without saying, it was an incredible experience for me. I’d never gone to the ball, you know, even when I was active service. My first experience with it was as the guest of honor, it was also my first experience at public speaking. It was really great being back in the full company of Marines. We did the ceremony and walked out with Honor Guard, cut the cake, watched the color ceremony and then I gave my short speech. They actually filmed this, so it’ll show up eventually.

I was pretty nervous about the whole thing, I mean, “What to say?” I’m not a politician, so no “vote for me” speech. I don’t have a movie I want them to all go watch or a book to plug. I have a little show on TV, which to me is a pretty trivial accomplishment. I have a business that I’m proud of, but I’ve never made a sales pitch in my life, so that’s out.

Besides, these are Marines. They have a different set of priorities. So I thought about it and threw away everything I had written and just walked out with a question.

Now, there’s one question every Marine gets: “What’s it like being in the Marine Corps?” I’ve never tried to answer this one. Because there’s just no way to explain it, not in words they’ll understand — or at least I’ve never been able to do it.

How do you tell somebody what it’s like doing bends and thrusts until you puke, and still keep going because your drill instructor’s not tired? How do you tell people what that’s like? Walking your post in a military manner, and there’s nobody around for two miles to see you do it, and you’re still doing it right. I couldn’t tell you why. Living and serving with people that live words like “duty,” “honor,” “courage” and “integrity” every day of their lives. It’s not just stuff that they see in a movie or words they see on a page in a book; it’s their whole reason for being. How do you tell people what it’s like knowing men like that? I can’t.

How do you tell people what it’s like to serve with men who put on their uniform every day knowing that they are their nation’s sacrifice for freedom, for honor, for dignity? I’ve never been able to express it. 

How do you tell people what it’s like when you look down the line and you see all the Marines that aren’t with you anymore? There’s no knowing. There’s no way of telling people what that’s like.

Being called “Marine,” was the proudest moment of my life. It’s a title I felt unworthy of then, and one I’m still trying to live up to this day. There were a lot of young Marines at the Ball and I wanted to tell them “thank you,” and I wanted to tell them that as they go through live and through the ranks, they’ll earn many titles, but it’s that first title, “Marine” , that will make all the rest possible. 
Happy birthday, Marine Corps. I wish I could tell people what it’s like, but one of y’all will have to step up because I can’t. And Happy Veterans’ Day to all the servicemen and women of the Armed Forces — God love you and keep you safe.

  • NN..

    That is about as good as I've seen it written.
    Semper Fi

  • David Boggs


  • Karl

    I spent the Marine Corps Birthday bow hunting on Quantico here in Virginia. Most of the training areas were closed. As I drove out to and back from where I was, I saw why: wet Marines out training in the woods and roads. Road marching, land navigation, convoys, etc. I'm retired Army now but seeing these young Marines out living the things Will talks about filled me with a mix of pride and affection or them. God Bless the Marine Corps.

    • Chuck

      When traveling on Joplin road, I see them at times in Hot/Cold, Rain, Sleet & Snow (although we don't get much here) marching, jogging, sprinting and all..My Dad, Uncles & In-Laws were ARMY, however they held all branches of Military Service in HIGH esteem..I never served, but their sense of Honor & Commitment was instilled upon me and I try to live that every day. Veterans Day – Wills story about humility ,appreciation and your acknowledgement of "Pride & Affection" sends a message of what Veterans Day is all about…Take Care & be Well , chuck

  • David Kemp

    Semper Fi Will! You could not have said it any better. There are no words for a verbal explanation. One simply has to live it!!

  • Bob

    Will you said it well and it is a title one earns and never forgets–Semper Fi Brother Also enjoy you show , the gun ideas and your crew—GREAT

  • Buddy – Tall Guns

    Semper Fi! Nothing else needs to be said you did it all!

  • mark gross

    oohrahh will i'm proud to call you my brother semper fi lcpl gross 1/4 mcagcc. 86-90

  • benjamin de chaine

    Ben De Chaine

  • Dennis V. Nix

    Will, you said it very well. If you haven't been in the Corps you will probably never understand what Esprit De Corps and Semper Fidelis is all about. If you are a Marine no words are necessary. It is more a feeling that lies deep in your heart rather than a statement of words.
    Cpl. Dennis V. Nix HMM-265 1964-1968

    • Jim Zajac

      Phrogs Forever, Dennis.

  • J.C. Smith

    I told my son on the parade deck at Paris Island after he received his EGA that I couldn't be any prouder of him , even if he had discovered the cure for cancer. All of our people in uniform are special , but Marines have special place in my heart . Thank you Will for serving our country and thank you to all our service members . God bless you all .

    • Jim Zajac

      Sorry dude, it’s Parris Island, not the Paris with a thousand different versions of cheese..Who can properly rule a nation that exports a thousand varieties of cheese?

  • larry

    makes me proud to claim the tittle united states marine
    your speach was excellent very heart felt
    still go by the recruiters office and hangouthave coffee/lifer juice
    be well
    l/cpl Olsen usmc fmf/alt 3rd marine div fst-17 78-84

  • MadDog2047

    Very done Marine. Semper Fi

  • Fred Keith

    I'm USN Retired…but I grew up with the JarHeads in Nam….They kept this old Seadog alive for 22mo 15days.
    I was with a special recon unit….I may be an Old Sailor..but..cut my teeth with all of you Wonderful JarHeads…Love you all…USN Retired Fred Keith 1965-1987

  • Dan Syrcle

    Will you did just fine, the Corps has a great rep in you! I was Air Force and have nothing but respect for the "Green Machine"

  • Bud Hale

    No one could have said it better! Bud 3Bn 3Marines Vietnam 66-67

  • Michael Kimbrough

    As the previous Marines stated, no words can possibly
    convey what its like to serve in the Marine Corps.
    I have formed lifetime bonds with guys from my unit.
    It is an honor having you as a Marine brother. Love the
    the show Will. Semper Fi
    Michael Kimbrough
    1st Mar Div, C Co, 3rd LAR Bn

  • Mike r platoon 296

    I was just thinking about all those bends and thrusts we did at pi when I ran across your article. Tried to tell a young man today what it was like being in the Marine Crop but couldn't do it justice. Yoi have to be one to ever understand.

  • Mad Jack

    S/F Marine!

  • Carlos Izzy Castilleja

    Just want to say semper fi devil dogs from one marine to another

  • Jim M

    Amen. Semper Fi !

  • Will_Hayden

    It's been , what ? 23 years since I've been in a room full of Marines . THe greatest thing about that night was just being there , same language , same men .It was like I'd never left . God Bless gentlemen , and Thank you for that evening . Will

  • fgtminsts

    I agree with Will, though from a slightly different perspective. The proudest time of my enlistment was the final 2yrs of my 4yrs. I was a Navy Corpsman (E/5), assigned as senior Corpsman to Echo company, 2/6/2. Many of my peers wore Navy dress uniforms on liberty and/or leave. I always wore the Marine greens (I did notl qualify to wear dress blues as I was not a graduate of Marine recruit training. However, I felt proud to care for MY Marines! To this day, they (you) are still and always will be MY Marines. One day I may even get the Bulldog tattoo I passed up lest I (remember I was NOT a Marine) I somehow desecrate it. SEMPER FI!

    • Jim Zajac

      Sir, Irrespective of your admiration of Will Hayden, you were more of a Marine, than most. Had I crossed paths with you in Nam you would have had that Bulldog and the USMC insignia tattoo, perhaps not exactly where you desired it..Often tested, Always faithful, Brothers forever. Semper Fi, mate.

  • TWS

    Will you said it best… in NOV 2005 in Al Quim, IRAQ I was asked to be the question speaker, at the time I flew a UAV as a contractor supporting the Marines about to engage in Operation "Steel Curtain" it is humbling, it is hard to come up with words, it is the most AWESOME thing I have done. I spoke from my heart and the best I could come up with is THANKS!!!… From all the past the present and future Marines for continuing the legacy I was lucky enough to be part of… SEMPER FI Will…. from one Marine to all Men and Women who serve in Harms Way….God Bless and take care….TWS

  • easy3maw

    Thanks Will. I served my time back in peace time. You gave me a rush of Marine Pride. My hair standing on end. Goose pumps to the top of Mnt Mo-Fo. You said it best with of all the titles the 1st is the best. I feel for my young Marines behind me. Even though I have been out since 81. Young Marines behind me include all ranks. My time has created some Generals. Some privates became SgtMaj's. Some died to develope the V22. Behind them are the ones that ate sand and fear. They slept with the absence of buddies. They lived with untold family situations. I just hope they will be able to feel the Goose bumps and the pride that they truly have earned.

  • K. Lee, Mesa, AZ

    Spent most of my career in the USAF enlisted and as an officer. I did two years in high school with the US Marine Corps Team finishing second overall. I know it doesn't amount to much but I feel connected to the Corps none the less. I also have a son-in-law who is a Marine. So, the family does have a real Marine representing us. My dad was US Army and my son is US Navy. Every department covered except the Coast Guard. Kudos to Will and his assignment and to the Corps for another glorious birthday.

  • Jim Robbins Cpl/USMC

    There Are Only Two Kinds of People That Understand Marines. Marines and the Enemy. everyone else just has a second hand oppinion.

  • Aaron

    Kill, Eat Babies

  • Jose B. Juarezb

    Semper Fi and thank you for your service Will!! My sons love your show take care. Active duty 90-94 Golf Co. 2/5 wpns plt. 0331, and 1st CEB Camp Pendleton.

  • Jimmi7979

    Semper Fi…. Kilo Company, 3rd Batallion 1st Marines
    Live the Marine life always, because once a Marine, ALWAYS A MARINE! HURRAAAAH!

  • Moohamed

    Eat the apple and F*** the core. What a sad day.

  • Sandpipernet

    When I consider the numerous ATF violations this guy has, I have to wonder why the ATF permits him to operate his weapons of mass destruction business. The fact that he still has his TV show is even more disturbing. Doesn’t this send the wrong signnal that gun violence and TV can be good family entertainment. Doesn’t this say that the disease of gun violence can be profitable?

    • dougiefreshoo7

      More babies die from abortion than from guns.
      Most deaths by guns are by suicide
      Most homicides by guns are by blacks (Obama supporters)
      Most dangerous cities and districts are blue districts with Democrat Mayors that recieve the most amount of federal welfare.
      Less than 1% of all deaths in 2011 were gun related (FBI)
      More Americans a year are killed by knives, fists, hammers, clubs than by rifles (FBI)
      Why don’t liberal Americans show the same outrage, emotion, empathy towards people killed by fists, knives, hammers, clubs as they do with guns?
      You’re posting on a “GUNS AND AMMO” website and whining l like a little bitch about guns. We know you’re not a gun owner. We know who you are. You’re another Obama supporting creepy white gay male liberal blogger who watches Bill Maher and John Stewart and you get your talking points from all the unoriginal George Soros funded propaganda hate sites (Media Matters,, DailyKos, Huffingtonpost, Snopes, and watch the wackos on MSNBC.
      It really says something when the vast majority of Maher’s and Stewart’s audience are between the ages of 14 to 23 years old. Part of the silly unoriginal unintellectual global youth movement of takers and wanters.

      • James Bailey

        I’m laughing too hard to take your reply seriously.

      • Jim Zajac

        With 16 children being shot on the streets of this nation every day, of every month, in any year, you should reconsider your comments. There is some good news on those 16 daily gunshot victims; an average of nine get to, perhaps, blink the next day, 6 do not. And then there’s the 18 average United States veterans that take their lives each and every day, as well. Let’s not forget about my age group either. Most of the firearm related deaths are your elders. I’m disgusted with the so called “gun culture” that exists in my America because one day it will culminate to a ferocity that will equate to, or exceed, the vulgarity of horrors during this nations Un-Civil War, even though that was a cause well worth dying for.

  • pete ss

    Unbecoming to a marine
    Will what you did to vince was bad

  • Jim Zajac

    Will Hayden exhibits the arrogance I had seen in junior non-coms; the wanna-be’s; the I’ve been there but had not; the barracks commando; the type that gooze over weapons they never fired in combat; the ones that say I was too young for Nam ( I just wish you were there for the experience because you would probably be crabbin’ or mud-buggin dude). Quit glamorizing what you never experienced, it simply makes this world just a wee more dangerous for the garatroopers like yourself. And to your stupid son-in-law, GROW THE FUCK UP, BOY!!!!!

    • Me

      You’re seriously fucked up! Go see a shrink………..

  • David

    USMC 1985-1993 0331,0311 Well said Mr. Hayden well said.

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