Semper Fi

Semper Fi




Always faithful.  That’s what Semper Fidelis means- you may have seen it on bumper stickers “Semper Fi”.  It’s the motto of the Marines. 


I’ve never been a very patriotic person…and I know I have to be careful when I use that word- as you should be when you read it, because it means something different to everyone.  I believe there are things that people have done that should not be celebrated- sometimes those things can attach themselves to a nation’s history; however, there have been beautiful things to happen in all nations of the world.  Those things should be remembered – and celebrated.


Always faithful.

What does that mean?

I could vaguely see this piece before I painted it.  The elements were there, but they weren’t solid.  And because this painting was a private request from someone I don’t really know as a gift for a complete stranger, I couldn’t really make it personal.  This was my dilemma.  How do I paint a piece to commemorate a stranger’s years of service to our country?


As I painted, I felt good about how it was coming along, but it didn’t really hit me until I painted the dog tags.  You may not be able to see them in the picture, but they’re there- dangling in the wind, hanging from the rifle that serves as a makeshift grave.  It clicked when I painted the dog tags.  I first thought about whose name was on that metal.  Then, I thought about the mother of that person.  I could see her crying on a sofa in a well-kept living room.  There was a piano in the corner and there were white doilies on some of the furniture.  That women wept there, and I soon felt like a voyeur, because she did not stop- and in the movies when there is a scene like this, they usually show enough to convey the emotion, but then they switch scenes.


I saw a brother staring at a casket ready to be lowered into the ground, thinking of the unresolved conflict that separated them.  I saw a high school student walking into a schoolroom and meeting the eyes of some of her fellow students- walking to her desk to find some fresh roses there.  She meets them in silence and begins to cry.

I saw a lot of stuff like that- and I could hear those tags dangling in the wind.  They sounded cold.


2 Responses to “Semper Fi”

  1. August 22, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    mmmmmm. heavy sigh. deep breath. Yes. I can see her, too. And that makeshift grave, and the Marines standing nearby, moving on in spite of the gnawing in their minds and the aches in their guts and the lumps in their throats, and all of the really good reasons to not be faithful.

  2. 2 Sapper Mike
    January 13, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Thank you for posting this, thank you for painting this, and thank you most of all for caring enough to put that kind of thought into it – that is the difference between a good painting and a masterpiece. Its the difference between an illustration and a work of art.

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