Invoking the mantra of “team above self,” the head of the U.S. Marines confirmed that he will ban public displays of the Confederate battle flag.
In a letter published on April 23, General David Berger, Commandant of the 186,000-strong Marine Corps, said that the ban was not a judgment on the flag or those who fly it, but a decision made to ensure unity so that the force can fight to win.
“We are a warfighting organization, an elite institution of warriors who depend on each other to win the tough battles,” wrote Berger. “Anything that divides us, anything that threatens team cohesion must be addressed head-on.”
Berger said that he had now outlawed “public displays of the battle flag carried by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.”
“This symbol has shown it has the power to inflame feelings of division. I cannot have that division inside our Corps.”
Berger said that Marines should focus on the symbols which unite them, such as their uniforms, and the marine seal.
“We train, eat, sleep, sweat, succeed, or fail, together. Our pride in the uniform underscores our bond; it reminds us that we are a Corps; that we prize the team more than the individual.”
Berger had asked commanders to prepare for the ban back in February, according to the Associated Press.
The Commandant’s letter, dated April 20, was written for the June 2020 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, according to the Marine Corps Times.
It is not clear what prompted him to publish the letter on Twitter on April 23.
— David H. Berger (@CMC_MarineCorps) April 23, 2020
According to the Associated Press, a Marine Corps spokesman said the move did not come in response to any specific incident.
In his letter, Berger acknowledged that for many people the flag is a “symbol of heritage or regional pride,” but said he was also “mindful of the feelings of pain and rejection of those who inherited the cultural memory and present effects of the scourge of slavery in our country.”
“My intent is not to judge the specific meaning anyone ascribes to that symbol or declare someone’s personally held view to be incorrect. Rather, I am focused solely on building a uniquely capable warfighting team whose members come from all walks of life and must learn to operate side-by-side.”
Berger said he wanted marines to focus on the symbols that bring them together. “The eagle, globe, and anchor. The stars and stripes. Our battle colors. Our MarPat uniform. Team over self: that is how we must operate to fight and win.”
Responses to Berger’s letter on his Twitter feed were overwhelmingly positive, with many echoing the final words of Berger’s letter, the Marine motto “Semper Fidelis”—always faithful.