Marco  Martinez

I remember my Marine recruiter, Staff Sergeant Marquez, a six-foot-tall, dark-skinned Mexican-American Marine with a barrel chest, thin mustache, and bulging forearms. That guy ate punks like me for breakfast. And it was then, and only then, that I began to understand that all I had done up and to that point was crap and devoid of virtue.

Many liberals believe in hard work, too. But conservatives stress hard work and personal excellence as pathways to virtue (“Be all you can be,” as the Army would say). As any brother- or sister-in-arms will tell you, personal excellence gets stressed from day one of boot camp.

4. Service members understand that freedom is not free.

The Armed Forces do their part to cure us young folks of the historical amnesia that afflicts so many people of my generation (I’m 26). I can’t speak for other branches, but I’m sure they are similar.

As new recruits, we had Marine Corps history drilled into us daily. And so, later when we were out on some grueling field operation, for example, it was much harder to complain knowing the hell that our Marine grandfathers experienced at Tarawa, or the brutal fighting our Vietnam fathers endured.

What we understand is that if American history teaches us anything it is that freedom is a torch passed from one generation to the next.

Someone—the military—has to do the heavy lifting of history.

5. The military shoots guns. Lots of guns.

Okay, so I thought I’d lighten it up a bit. But I’m only half-joking. Conservatives support gun rights and the use of lethal force to protect innocent people. The military does, too. As I say, violence isn’t senseless. Senseless violence is senseless.

Admittedly, I’m not a political scientist at Harvard. I’m a former Marine. But that’s precisely my point: whom we link arms with and support says a lot about how we view America—and what we’re willing to do to protect it.

Semper Fi.

Marco Martinez

Marco Martinez, a recipient of the Navy Cross, is author of the new book Hard Corps: From Gangster to Marine Hero (Crown Forum).