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Non Sibi Sed Patriae


Non Sibi Sed Patriae

”This blog is a historical rewrite of the great words of General Charles C. Krulak, his words simply inspire and to always be true with a Marine’s unselfish passion when possible his words are left intact as a means to exemplify history.” 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 words and with that understanding, we know that selflessness takes time to develop.

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was dedicated on September 26, 1959, dedicatory letters provided by President Eisenhower, Vice-President Nixon, Secretary of Defense McElroy, Secretary of the Navy Franke, Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke, Commandant of the Marine Corps R. McC. Pate, and Naval Academy Superintendent C. L. Melson. The Secretary of Defense’s letterhead cited the motto “Non Sibi Sed Patriae,”, the same words inscribed over the doors of the United States Naval Academy Chapel. These words records and cites “the spirit of Annapolis where service is “Not for self, but for country” (USNA, 2009).

History never envisioned as just-cause, and yet the Battle of Iwo Jima is important because it defines “Non Sibi Sed Patriae”. For those who survived Iwo Jima or as called by the Japanese, the Sulfur Island, named because of its, volcanic island that to this day, still has active sulfur vents. Iwo Jima the scene of one of the most horrific battles of World War II. In the minds of those Marines that survived, never to forget that a Marine fell to Japanese fire every two minutes nonstop for 36 days, Marines killed or wounded was insurmountable, the task to take the island borderline impossible (Krulak, 1998). History dictates and reveals that in the Battle of Iwo Jima, the only battle in the history of the Marine Corp, where Marines experience more casualties than the enemy. The voices of the warriors that fought there so long ago still heard within the constantly blowing winds across the black sands.

John Bradley, who survived the battles and it is not uncommon for the warriors of Iwo Jima or any battle not to speak of their war experiences with their family, silence becomes the truest friend (Krulak, 1998). John Bradley a hero, he had won the Nation’s second highest award for bravery, the Navy Cross, and yet when asked about Iwo Jima nothing but silence, a deafening warrior’s silence. Decorations a rite of passage, earned by a creative definition of bravery, a soldiers focus builds upon levels of valor needed to come to the aid of wounded Marines, and using your own body as a shield, shot through both legs, Bradley crawled to his duty, to help the wounded. Iwo Jima was important to Bradley’s family because they wanted to see the site of the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi the most famous battle photograph ever taken. Captured in a bronze and granite sculpture for eternity known today as the Marine Corps War Memorial, some would call a memorable event, others a reminder of living hell. Five Marines and one Navy Corpsman took part in that flag rising, three did not return home from the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Navy Corpsman named Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John Bradley from Appleton, Wisconsin. Hundreds of thousands visit the War Memorial every year, when they run their hands across the cool granite, a need to step back and read the engraved words: “Where Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue”. Then slowly your eyes travel up to the sculptured figures, young men, forever captured in bronze. Corpsman John Bradley is easy to recognize, he’s the one with the empty water canteen pouch. As history reports prior to climbing Mount Suribachi, he gave the last of his water to a dying Marine. John Bradley would continue to aid wounded, and while himself severely wounded for the next 24 hours without water. His actions exemplify bravery and sacrifice which was typical for the Greatest Generation ordained by history with so many true selflessness acts recorded in blood and guts. John Bradley was a historical part of pure selflessness for country that stands for everything that has made America great! The quest at Iwo Jima or any Battle of WWII was never for public glory. The In fact, Greatest Generation under fire rarely speak of credit, instead they speak of; who can count on me and who can be counted upon to leave no wounded soldier behind (Brady, 2008) (Brokaw, 1998).

The empty canteen holder became of great interest to Felix de Weldon, the sculptor of the Marine Corps War Memorial. A typical artist ultimate focus became detailed accuracy; in battle artistic accuracy is the farthest from a warriors mind. John Bradley could not remember what happen to the water canteen, the human limits during battle are enduring emotion at levels those who have not been in battle can’t understand. In battle the reality goes beyond fear, and reality compels the selflessness acts, and these acts are instinctive for warriors and that is all that matters the life and death of the wounded is the reality, the focus is not for self, but for the wounded. Surviving Marines remembered Bradley and they told de Weldon the story of how Bradley shared his water until there was no more. History records many selflessness acts in the forgotten memories of warrior, and yet no unforgettable act of selflessness remain forgotten for long, for history brings about desired learning, and learning becomes fearless sought after hope.

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.” These words are simple, but powerful. Selflessness born with and takes time to develop, during war this time becomes shortened, a person can develop a sense of selflessness in a single moment in time, a man’s birthright or not. General Krulak writes about spontaneous selfless acts rarely happen. Instead, built on a strong moral foundation and then carefully layered by doing the right thing, time and time again at the right moment! All people possess a strong character, strong moral, and a strong sense of duty, all critical human strengths. General Krulak encouraged that man must add to those strengths a spirit of selflessness and draw from it and share it. In a leader’s role, his or her number one duty is to make other leaders. Use this selflessness to lead, build your team and to serve all those that come in contact with you. The empty water canteen holder came about because John Bradley gave the last drop of his water to a wounded Marine on 23 February 1945 and later that afternoon, he was struggling to climb the fire swept heights of Mount Suribachi (Krulak, 1998).

Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John Bradley braved enemy fire to aid two wounded Marines and wounded himself, he again braved enemy fire to aid two more Marines. It was not for sense of self but for country, but for others, that he performed those brave deeds.

General Krulak said it best, “deep within his soul, John Bradley instinctively understood that: Non Sibi Sed Patriae, is contagious”. Historians have documented that after Bradley aided those final two wounded Marines, Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John Bradley, severely wounded, lost consciousness. He awoke 36 hours later aboard the hospital ship USS Solace, not knowing how he arrived there. History has not recorded the names of those Marines and Sailors that carried him off the beaches of Iwo Jima. What becomes known are the selflessness acts that placed him on the small boat, those selflessness acts that carried him to the ship, represent only small acts of selflessness that are unforgettable, as long as we continue to read and write these memories!


Brady, J. (2008). Why Marines Fight: St. Martin’s Griffin; Reprint edition (October 28, 2008).
Brokaw, T. (1998). The Greatest Generation: Random House.
Krulak, C. C. (1998, 16 May 1998 ). 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. General Charles C. Krulak, USMC – Commandant of the Marine Corps, from http://www.s2company.com/files/readings/krulak.htm}
USNA. (2009). United States Naval Academy – Official U.S. Navy Web Site. Brief History United States Naval Academy, 2009, from http://www.usna.edu/VirtualTour/150years/1950.htm


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