Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, Sergeant, USMC

“It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.” — Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, Sergeant, USMC

There are many different versions of the semi-famous statement above. It does not seem to be an actual quote from a real person; but it may contain some logical fallacies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Logical_fallacies

Who actually claims that reporters have given “us” freedom of the press?
Would not a publisher control a press anyway, not a reporter?

Who actually claims that poets have given “us” freedom of speech?
Most humans are born with the ability to speak, no soldiers required.

Who actually claims that campus organizers have given “us” the freedom to demonstrate?
Most humans are born with the ability or future ability to walk, talk, yell, sit, sing, and stand; no soldiers required.

Like an urban legend, the poem is peddled in many variations. It is usually attributed to a “Father Denis Edward O’Brien, USMC.” There’s never been a clergy in the Marines. The Navy provides the priests. But O’Brien was indeed in the Marines in World War II. He became a priest after his discharge, and died in 2002. When I reached his sister-in-law, Jenny O’Brien, in the Dallas area, she said the family has been discussing the poem “over and over and over again” in the last few months, trying to figure out its authorship because of the attention it’s gotten. Father O’Brien was an avid forwarder of e-mails. “We’re not sure whether he did this or whether someone on an e-mail picked it up and put his name on it,” Jenny O’Brien said. “He didn’t write poems, so far as I know.”

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1116-30.htm

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18 Responses to “Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, Sergeant, USMC”

  1. Chuck Says:

    I came across your post claiming “logical fallacies’ in the poetic piece beginning, “It is the Soldier…” Really? You found a logical fallacy in a POEM? How astute!
    I don’t really mean to belittle, I mean to be light-hearted as I point out to you that the virtue of poetry is not logical consistency, but creative expression. Listen to the poem and the meaning is clear, but parse each phrase and you warp it into what it never claimed to be.
    Do you really believe that reporters (who HAVE claimed to be responsible for continued freedom of expression) have done more to advance your freedom to speak or write (AS YOU CHOOSE!) than the Soldier? (Please don’t go all “logical fallacy” on me also. When I use the term “Soldier” I mean any member of our Armed Forces, or rather all of them together.)
    Do you believe that you owe campus organizers more than Soldiers when we assemble to present a grievance or advance a cause? Sure, people are usually born with these innate capabilities, but in many cultures and nations, if you try to assemble, you will be imprisoned or killed. Thank a Soldier that this does not happen to you – and I assume you live in a free society as is usually found in the industrialized nations of Western Civilization.
    God Bless! Thanks for helping guide me on my search to find the earliest attributed author.

  2. bork Says:

    some wars are wars of choice

    For example, what freedoms were the North Vietnamese trying to take away from people in the United States?

  3. Alex Says:

    Military service is honorable, but it need not be enhanced by promoting the idea that soldiers give us our rights and freedoms.

    Alex

    Port Hadlock, WA

  4. Jack Says:

    Bork; You missed the point completely – the N.V. were not trying to deprive the people of the U.S. of their liberties, the U.S. military was trying to prevent the N.V. from depriving the citizens of S.V. of their freedoms.

    Alex; What rights do you think you would have today if soldiers had not stood between you and the aggression of Germany and Japan in WWII or the Late Great Soviet Union during the Cold War? If you truly believe those enemies would have respected our pacificism and left us alone while they plundered the rest of Europe and the Asian Rim, you are hopelessly out of touch!

  5. Jim Says:

    Chuck, Semper Fi, You are a fine Patriot and and know how to get an important point across. ( Bork ) We are Americans, we not only fight for our own freedoms but for the freedom and human rights of others. This is why the Lord allows us to remain the” Land of The Free”, get it? ( Alex, you are right. Soldiers do not give us our freedom, God does, Soldiers just make sure we keep it.
    Jim U.S.M.C.

    Girard, OH.

  6. bork Says:

    “but in many cultures and nations, if you try to assemble, you will be imprisoned or killed.”

    by who? Mainly soldiers or soldier like police people.

  7. bork Says:

    North Vietnam, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union all had soldiers.
    Read the poem again. It implies that all soldiers give people freedom.

    Yet another reason why the poem is inaccurate.

  8. Jim Altiero Says:

    Bork, Although America is if nothing else and Above all others” The Great Land of Freedom “. Poems are not always meant to be totally accurate, but in this case ” It Is The Soldier”, the accuracy is born out by the fact that the poem was composed by an American, and the” Us ” is us, Americans.

    This is so obvious, If we are going to pick it apart, the whole thing can be settled by renaming the poem “The American Soldier”. With all do respect for Literal literacy, and the qualms of the misguided. I do not believe many would argue with the poignancy and authenticity of this poem.
    Jim, U.S.M.C.

  9. jim altiero Says:

    Although America is if nothing else and above all others, “The Great Land of Freedom”, poems are not meant to be totally accurate as they are a form of free expression. In my opinion, the accuracy is born out by the fact that the poem was composed by an American and the ‘us’ is us Americans.

    This is so obvious, if we are going to pick it apart, the whole thing could be clarified by renaming the poem, ‘The American Soldier’. With all do respect for literal literacy, and the qualms of the politically misguided; I do not believe that many would argue with the poignancy and authenticity of this poem.
    Jim, former U.S.M.C.

  10. JAMES ALTIERO Says:

    BORK,
    IT’S BEEN WEEKS. I EXPECT NO ONE HAS AN ANSWER FOR THAT ONE. OR MAYBE IT’S A LIBERAL RETREAT? REGARDLESS, WELCOME ABOARD. EVEN FORMER MARINES LOVE TO WIN!
    BEST REGARDS,
    JIM

  11. Jim Altiero Says:

    TO JACK AND CHUCK’
    HIGH FIVE AND GOD BLESS AMERICA! …. BORK, THANKS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY AND KEEP THE PRESS ROLLING. YOU ARE A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THE ADVANTAGES MANY GOOD MEN MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRAFICE FOR, THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH. I DO HOPE YOU CAN BRING YOURSELF TO STOP DRINKING THAT NASTY KOOL AID HOWEVER, IT WILL ONLY GIVE YOU HEART BURN AND POOR VISION.
    BLESS Y’ALL,
    JIM

  12. vnbushman Says:

    I was in the Marines from 1963 to 1967,. I served in Viet Nam from Oct. of 1965 to Dec. 1966. The South Viet Nameese wanted us there to help them fight against the North Viet Namese. I know this to be true because I had several South Viet Namese friends while there those 13 months,.
    About 5 years ago I got my hair cut at a Military Air-Base. It was a south Viet Namese who cut my hair that day. She was married to a Viet Nam American veteran. She spoke english,. Her family still live in South Viet Nam. She told me that her family tried to get on the choppers as they were being loaded with Viet Namese locals. Later called the ”Boat People”. Most of them came to America to live. Only some members of her family made it on those choppers that day. She was in tears when she said to me, ”wouldn’t it be nice if the American’s could come back to South Viet Nam and once again, help my people fight communisum”,. I said, ”it will never happen again”.
    The American’s were never trying to take over Viet Nam. And anyone who believes that crap is very very misinformed,.
    Semper-Fi Bros where ever you are,

  13. Alex USMC '79-'99 Says:

    If we want to smoke in a bar and order beers with a 20 year old girlfriend, or have our concealed carry permit honored on National Park’s lands- should we tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

  14. gabby Says:

    what I see the poem says is some ideas -like freedom- are worth fighting to preserve – blood sweat and tears even death, maybe not for yourself but hopefully for those you love. ask any trained personel to remember their first 6 weeks and it does’t get better, you just get used to it, they always say if you can’t take a joke you should never have joined. These are our heroes ignored in our midst, and treated disgracefully, nothing changes read Kipling

  15. Jim Altiero Says:

    vnbushman, You are right brother, they are misinformed about the Vietnam war and probably a whole lot of other things. It is always interesting to see these liberals go braindead when you ask them what they think about the millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians who were slaughtered by the North vietnamese and the Camarouge after we left. They will never get it, they just don’t have it in them. Semper Fi and God Bless! JIm Altiero, U.S.M.C., Vietnam – 1966 – 1967 ( check out my website at veteranrepco.com ) I think you’ll like it. cc. Jack & Chuck

  16. lynn Says:

    It is a poem. It is an expression of emotion to make the reader or listener think, to reflect, to remember. It does not have to be precisely accurate for accuracy is not its purpose.

    The poem asks you to remember the irony that the freedom to burn the flag was purchased by the blood of those who served the flag for they wanted a nation were individuals possessed a government that was of themselves, not of a king, not of a landed aristrocracy, not of a dictator.

    May God bless them all and pray that God continues to bless this nation.

  17. Corporal B. Says:

    To all of the liberal ostriches out there, let me explain the poem like this:

    The constitution is like a check.
    you can right it out for whatever amount you want, but if there isn’t enough money in the account, it aint worth anything.

    The constitution is a check written against a bunch of smaller checks, each of those checks is written for an amount “up to and including my life”. Many of those checks were cashed, some in 1776, some in 1865, some in 1945, 1969, and 1991. There have even been some cashed as recently as 2009. Guess what, we still aren’t done paying for our freedom. As long as there are certain individuals out there in the world who would love nothing more than to remove our freedom and make us slaves, we still must pay for our freedom. We still need young men and women to write out that check. I wrote mine, and it was almost cashed in Iraq.

    So, the next time you feel like opening your kool aid stained mouth, don’t.

    The key to understanding the freedom of speech is knowing when not to use it.

    If you liked the poem, read “The Battle of the Flag.”

  18. Joe Kress (LTC retired) Says:

    Correction please – Dennis Edward O’Brien was a US Marine during WWII
    trained as a forward artillery observer serving in the south pacific.
    AFTER his military service he became a Catholic priest. In that capacity later in life he served as the chaplain to the First Marine Division Association.
    Authoritative sources who knew Father O’Brien state that he never claimed to be the author of the inspiring piece, “It is the soldier, not…”
    He did not know who the author was, but used the quote and so his name became associated with it.
    Sources – http://www.semperficatholic.com; http://www.iwvpa.net/o_briende/index.php

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