To Battle We Go: ‘Maybe you can be one of us’
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
One of the best-known military recruiting slogans is this: “Maybe you can be one of us: The Few, The Proud, The Marines.”
The U.S. Marine Corps was the first military service to hire an advertising agency, back before World War I, and continues to innovate in image-making recruiting campaigns to this day. Unlike the other military services, whose recruiting pitches include promises of travel, bonuses and training for civilian jobs, the Marine Corps uses the opposite strategy. It presents itself as an elite band of fighting brothers (and sisters) that not everyone can join.
Explicit in the pitch is that a young person considering service in the Marine Corps may not have what it takes to become a Marine. It seems an odd way to attract recruits but, in fact, the Marine Corps usually attracts more recruits than it can handle and has never used draftees to meet its recruiting goals.
For the kind of recruit the Marine Corps desires, the challenge of measuring up is somehow attractive. Those joining other services may be interested in travel, bonuses and job training. The Marine Corps is looking for those who want to become Marines. This mindset is the backbone of the Marine Corps’ famous esprit de corps and unrivaled combat record.
The late Major Dan Delaney (a former Marine himself) used to say that The Salvation Army is the Marine Corps of the church, and it’s an apt description. Our movement is aimed at the lower end of society, the “least and the lost.” The work is hard and dangerous, and we never have everything we need to do the job. Those looking for just the right kind of preacher, the slickest church music, or a chapel full of people just like them, will find an Army corps disappointing. But for a few, it will have a strange attraction, and these are the kind of people who will make good Salvation Army soldiers.
Of course, we in the Army don’t want to exclude anyone who wants to be a part of our corps and our mission. But Salvation army soldiership is not like membership in other churches. You need only to read the Soldier’s Covenant (the former Articles of War) to see that. It describes a lifetime commitment to God and the Salvation Army and requires more than any other church membership I know of.
Not everyone is cut out for it. In fact, most probably are not. Our corps, then, should have far more non-soldiers attending than soldiers, and soldiership should be proposed only to those who have shown they are ready to make the commitment.
So, let’s not be in too big a hurry to make everyone in our corps a soldier. Better to say, “Maybe you can be one of us: The Few, The Proud, The Salvationists.”