If you see a person sporting a red emblem with an eagle, globe and anchor today, try saying, “happy birthday” and in most cases you’ll get to watch them smile. Nov. 10 is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The Corps got its start 242 years ago in a tavern in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. For those who have earned the title of Marine, Nov. 10 is celebrated as if it was their own birthday.
Today at Whitefish High School, Col. George H. Bristol, one of the most decorated and deployed Marines of his generation, will be the keynote speaker at the Veterans Day program. The program begins at 10:30 a.m. and is free and open to the public.
Bristol joined the Marine Corp in 1975 and retired in 2013. In 38 years of service he spent 19 years deployed overseas. He has spent the majority of his Marine Corps birthdays in distant and often dangerous places, but today he’ll bring his message to the students and visitors at Whitefish High School.
Bristol came to Montana to take up the role of headmaster of Whitefish Christian Academy. He considers this his final mission and said that everything he experienced as a Marine has equipped him for this leadership position.
“When I took the job, I was not sure what I was getting into, or if I was the right guy. My life had been about solving problems at the sharp end of combat. My life had been about ‘every day is game day’ and ‘eliminate the threat, protect the force, accomplish the mission,’” Bristol wrote on an online fundraising platform. “But I am the right guy,” he continued. “What I have found is a group of incredibly dedicated people fighting to give our children a chance to learn in an environment that is safe, challenging, and looking toward developing leaders of tomorrow.”
For Bristol the ethos he learned in the United States Marine Corps of honor, courage and commitment are paramount. His actions bear out his desire to honor those who have gone before as well as those who are serving today. His mission at the Whitefish Christian Academy gives him the opportunity to instill this ethos in a young generation that he hopes will grow to be the leaders of tomorrow.
“I did not have an easy childhood. Here I am with many kids who are loved, cherished, and entitled to a life I wouldn’t have believed was possible. They have always had freedom, so it is hard for them to realize why their freedoms are so important. That is what I can teach,” Bristol said. “This is a mission that is incredibly important to me, to the valley, and to the country. It is to develop young people to think and decide and to act in a Christ-centered environment so they will be better able to deal with what they’ll face in their life after this. Because someday they’ll have to go live in the world, and we want them to be ready for that.”
Bristol has an extensive resume, which includes the reconnaissance community as well as the Marine Corps Special Operations Command. He is responsible for creating the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and his combat service includes locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Bosnia-Herzegovina and across Africa.
Today’s program will allow students as well as members of the community the opportunity to celebrate the service of America’s veterans and also to join in the traditional Marine Corps birthday.
Photographer Brenda Ahearn can be reached at 758-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.