Non Sibi Sed Patriae

General Charles C. Krulak, USMC

Commandant of the Marine Corps

Commencement Remarks for the Uniformed Services University at the DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC, 16 May 1998

Thank you Admiral Zimble for that very kind introduction.

First let me say what a pleasure and an honor it is for me to be here this morning.

Like most of you in the audience, I too have a loved one that is graduating today.... And, I too feel that overwhelming sense of pride from seeing a person I cherish garner such a high achievement.

I am also honored to address the future leaders, researchers, and healers of the medical profession the graduates of the [F. Edward] Hebert School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Nursing, and the Graduate School of Medicine. And, it is to these men and women that I would like to speak for the next few minutes.

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the island of Iwo Jima. Known to the Japanese as Sulfur Island, it is a hot, bubbling, volcanic atoll that to this day, still has active sulfur vents.

During February and March 1945, it was the scene of one of the most horrific battles of World War II. During the 36-day campaign to take that island, a Marine fell to Japanese fire every two minutes ...every two minutes for 36 days a Marine was killed or wounded. It was the only battle, in the history of our Corps, where Marines suffered more casualties than the enemy.

Today, the island still bears the scars of that titanic struggle....It is a place heavy with history and long-on memories....The winds that constantly blow across the black sands of the Iwo Jima beaches seem, at times, to carry the voices of the warriors that fought there so long ago. It is a mournful and reverent place....

Joining me on that tortured ground was the family of the late John Bradley. They had never been there before, and they wanted to see where their husband and their father had fought.

John Bradley, who survived the battle, rarely spoke to his family about his experiences on Iwo Jima. When pressed, he would gloss over and downplay how he had won the Nation's second highest award for bravery-- the Navy Cross.

He earned that decoration by rushing to the aid of two wounded Marines, and then shielding them with his body while he tended to their wounds. When Bradley hurried to their aid, he didn't exactly rush ... he crawled ... crawled, because he had been shot through both legs just a few minutes before. Another reason the Bradley family wanted to visit Iwo Jima was because they wanted to see the site of the most famous battle photograph ever taken ...the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

That memorable event ...captured in a bronze and granite sculpture ... is known today as the Marine Corps War Memorial. Five Marines and one Navy Corpsman took part in that flag raising -- three did not survive the battle.

The Navy Corpsman did ... and as you have probably guessed ... his name was Pharmacist Mate 2 John Bradley.... Let me encourage you to visit the War Memorial one day ... run your hands across the cool granite ... step back and read the engraved words: "Where Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue" ... and then, let your eyes travel up to the sculptured figures.... young men ... forever captured in bronze.... Look for Corpsman John Bradley, you'll recognize him ... he's the one with the empty canteen pouch.

You see, prior to climbing Mount Suribachi, he gave the last of his water to a dying Marine.... On hot ... bubbling ... Sulfur Island, John Bradley would go the next 24 hours without water....

What I want to talk to you about today goes beyond bravery ... goes beyond sacrifice ... I want to talk to you about selflessness.... John Bradley was a brave man and he sacrificed greatly, but most of all, he was selfless. His brave acts were not done for any reward ... nor were they intended to be captured by NewsCam 4 or CNN ... there was no public glory in what he did. In fact, men under fire rarely speak of glory ... instead ... they speak of: "who can be counted upon and who cannot. " Above all, they speak about and remember the small individual acts of selflessness.

When Felix de Weldon, the sculptor of the Marine Corps War Memorial, asked John Bradley what had happened to his canteen -- John couldn't even remember ... in the heat of battle, he had completely forgotten. But, the surviving Marines of Bradley's unit knew ... and they remembered ... and they told de Weldon the story of his sharing his water. Selflessness is unforgettable ... even small acts of selflessness are unforgettable.

Today, when you leave here, you will find yourselves placed into positions of great responsibility. You will be men and women of letters and possess a special and unique educational experience. That alone, will cause the mantle of responsibility to be thrust upon you. And because of who and what you are, you must don that mantle of responsibility. With responsibility comes many challenges.

These challenges normally are translated into choices.

A choice to operate ... a choice for therapy ... a choice to do nothing....

But of all the choices you will face, there is none greater than the choice between self ... or selflessness.

Is the benefit for you ... Or, is it for your team? ... Or your patient? ... Or your clinic? ...Or your family?....

Over the chapel doors at the United States Naval Academy is a simple Latin inscription -- Non Sibi Sed Patriae -- "Not for self, but for country." Simple, but powerful.... Selflessness takes time to develop.

Rarely does a man or woman suddenly grow a brain and a spine in the middle of an operating room or on a battlefield.

Likewise, rarely does a person develop a sense of selflessness in a single moment in time. Spontaneous selfless acts rarely happen. Instead, they are built on a strong moral foundation and then carefully layered by doing the right thing ... time and time again.

All of you possess a strong character ... strong morals ... and a strong sense of duty. Let me encourage you to add to those strengths a spirit of selflessness. That spirit is within you now ... draw from it ... use it ... and encourage it from others. Use it to lead ... to build your team ... and to serve those you know and those you know not.

John Bradley gave the last of his water to a wounded Marine on 23 February 1945. That afternoon, he was struggling to climb the fire swept heights of Mount Suribachi.

The next day, he braved enemy fire to aid two wounded Marines and just a few days later, though wounded himself, he again braved enemy fire to aid two more Marines. It was not for sense of self that he performed those brave deeds. It was for others ... for those he knew and for those he knew not.... Deep within his soul, John Bradley instinctively understood that:

Non Sibi Sed Patriae, is contagious. After aiding those final two wounded Marines, Corpsman John Bradley ... badly wounded ... lost consciousness. He awoke 36 hours later aboard the hospital ship USS Solace. How he arrived there is unknown. The names of those Marines and Sailors that carried him off the fire-swept field of battle ... who placed him on the small boat ... who carried him to the ship ... have been lost to history ... only their selfless deed remains.... Even small acts of selflessness are unforgettable.

Thank you and Godspeed....


Contributed by David Humerick