Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, USMC, was born just before the turn of the last century in 1898. To this day, no US Marine can claim never have heard of Chesty Puller, or even said “Goodnight Chesty Puller, wherever you are!”
The enlisted loved General Puller, he gave them what they needed whenever possible, and backed them up 100%, having started as a second lieutenant but RIFed (Reduction in Force) to corporal, he knew what it was to be the low man on the totem pole and never forgot that;
When Lewis Chesty Puller – the Marine of World War II and Korea fame – ascended the enlisted and officer ranks from private to lieutenant general, he never forgot where he came from. When he was base commander at Camp Lejeune and was taking an early-morning walk, he came upon a hands-on-hips second lieutenant being saluted over and over by a private. When the lieutenant recognized the general, he snapped to attention and saluted.
“What’s going on here?” Puller inquired.
“This private,” pointed the lieutenant with an accusatory finger, “disobeyed the military manual when he failed to observe my approach within the prescribed number of paces in which he is required to render to me a salute. So I am helping him to remember in the future; I am requiring him to salute me one hundred times before continuing to his destination.”
“Very good. Very instructive,” said the general. “How many salutes has he rendered to you so far?”
“Forty-seven, Sir,” or some such number was the reply.
“Are you aware, Lieutenant, that the manual also requires that every salute rendered by an enlisted man to an officer be returned by that officer? It would appear that you are forty-seven salutes behind. You shall catch up on your end of the obligation before continuing to salute back-and-forth with this private to the count of one hundred.”
One of his many quotable sayings was; “They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”
Chesty Puller remains to this day the most highly decorated Marine of all time, with 5 Navy Crosses, in service from the Banana Wars to the “Frozen Chosin.” He also received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit (2), the Bronze Star, the Air Medal (3), and the Purple Heart.
Today, America has a multitude of heroes to look up to, thanks to the brave men and women of our armed forces. Now you know who some of them look up to as heroes.
Happy Birthday, Chesty. And good night, wherever you are!