To Serve and Protect: A Shared Understanding of the Meaning of Sacrifice
Remarks by U.S. Attorney McSwain at the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation Gala
PHILADELPHIA – On Saturday, October 5, 2019, United States Attorney William M. McSwain addressed members of law enforcement, the military, and civilian guests as the Law Enforcement Guest of Honor at the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation’s Philadelphia Gala. The annual event, held this year at the SugarHouse Casino, is a fundraiser to support the Foundation’s core mission: to provide scholarships to children who have lost a parent serving in the U.S. Marine Corps or federal law enforcement. Since its founding in 1995, MC-LEF has awarded over $76 million in educational awards and other humanitarian assistance to over 4,100 recipients.
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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Chief Inspector Boyle for that kind introduction and for your work as Vice President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation (MCLEF).
There are a few other thank-yous that I would like to make at the outset. First, I want to thank the organizers of this wonderful Gala. In particular, I’d like to thank Kevin Cauley, both for inviting me to speak to this distinguished group of heroes and friends, and more importantly, for his continued support of law enforcement and the military. Our country needs more citizens like Kevin – people who appreciate the sacrifices that those serving in the military and in law enforcement make every day.
I’d like to thank our military guest of honor, General James T. Conway, the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps: it is an honor to be with you this evening, General, though this is not the first time that our paths have crossed in a meaningful way to me. Back when I was a boot Second Lieutenant at Quantico, General Conway – or Colonel Conway at the time – was in command of The Basic School, which as many of you know is an arduous, six-month infantry training course for newly commissioned Second Lieutenants. Among these Lieutenants, it is known as TBS. Which either stands for The Basic School, or perhaps, depending on your mood at the time, “The Big Suck.”
Anyway, as a boot Second Lieutenant, I had the privilege of sitting next to General Conway at our TBS Mess Night. I actually had General Conway on my right, and General Christmas to my left. That’s pretty heady stuff for a Second Lieutenant. Sitting with those two great men, listening to their stories, absorbing their lessons, and seeing the way that they treated each other (and the way that they treated me) solidified my love for the Marine Corps in a way that has stayed with me for my whole life, and that will always be with me.
I also would like to express my gratitude this evening to the five brave Medal of Honor recipients who grace us with their presence: Barney Barnum (USMC); Brian Thacker (Army); Tom Kelley (Navy); Mike Thornton (Navy SEAL); and Tommy Norris (Navy SEAL, and retired FBI). Every American is indebted to you for your incredible fortitude, sacrifice, and valor.
Next, I want to thank and congratulate Tony McIntyre, founder of the McIntyre Group, for being selected to receive the Eagle Globe & Anchor Award tonight, and Quint Avenetti, Vice President, Combat Systems Development and Support at Navmar Applied Sciences Group, for receiving the Semper Fidelis Award. Both of these men have made extraordinary contributions to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation’s cause, and tonight’s recognition is very well-deserved.
And my final thank you is, in many ways, the most important one: I would like to recognize and thank those in the audience tonight who have either served in the military or in law enforcement (or both, as is the case for many of you). Whether you served in the past or serve in the present, and whether you are a reservist or active duty, a police officer or a federal agent – you are the heroes among us. And you share the same purpose: to keep Americans safe and to ensure that we all can sleep peacefully at night. All Americans are indebted to you for your service. If everyone could please join me in a round of applause to thank our heroes.
There is much that is similar about military service and law enforcement service, so it comes as no surprise that likeminded individuals are drawn to this sort of work. There’s a natural bond between the military and law enforcement.
For one thing, to succeed, both jobs require discipline and mental and physical toughness. They both also rely on structure and a healthy respect for rules. That said, there’s also a good bit of uncertainty that comes with both lines of work. For example, when you volunteer for this life, there is often uncertainty about where you will be assigned or even what you will do; more poignantly, when you are on the job, you don’t know whether you will return home safely at the end of a shift or the end of the tour of duty. These parallels between the military and law enforcement bring me to three main points I would like to make this evening.
First, I believe those who serve in the military or in law enforcement share a set of core values that enable them to serve and protect others and preserve our American way of life. One of my favorite aspects of the job as U.S. Attorney is that I get to work side-by-side with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners every day. I see, firsthand, how hard they work to do the right thing, to protect our communities, and to help victims of crime. And as I have said publicly, their jobs are made all the more difficult by a disturbing culture of disrespect for law enforcement in some circles in this City. This is unconscionable and despicable. But I make you this promise: as long as I’m the U.S. Attorney, I will use the full power of my Office for every minute of every day to stand with and stand up for the police and law enforcement. Because that is what you deserve.
It is the shared core values of the military and law enforcement – values like honor, courage, commitment, humility, integrity, resilience, and selflessness – that bind us together, and what makes this organization so special. You have embraced sacrifice as a way of life, not because it’s easy, but because you recognize the power and the good that comes from it. There is no greater calling than the one you have chosen in a life of service.
Second, while service to others requires personal sacrifice, the act of service also bestows great gifts to those who choose this path in life. That observation certainly holds true for me, both from my time as a Marine and my time in law enforcement. And when it comes to the Corps, I know that it has given me much more than I could ever give in return.
There is, first and foremost, the satisfaction that comes with committing yourself totally to something greater than yourself. But there are also practical, day-to-day gifts. Two that come to mind immediately are the lasting friendships and the lifelong lessons in leadership that I’ve received. I am at my happiest when I am with my Marine Corps brothers and sisters. I know that they would do anything for me, and I would do anything for them. Those friendships bring joy and meaning to my life.
And I can also say with certainty that my time in the Corps has influenced my career as a lawyer more than anything else. Whenever I come to a fork in the road and encounter a difficult decision in my civilian career, I always try to think back to what my Marine Corps commanders would expect of me – what would people like General Conway expect me to do? What can I do that is true to values that I learned in the Corps? What decision would that version of myself from long ago choose to make? In short, what would Lieutenant McSwain do?
I ask myself these questions and they give me clear answers. It isn’t always easy to do the right thing – especially in today’s complicated civilian world, with its attendant social and political pressures, the desire to be liked, the temptation to just go along to get along, and the natural human desire to do less, not more. I sometimes fail to meet the expectations of the Marine Corps. But I know what they are – and I know right from wrong. I draw strength from that. And I always will.
Which brings me to my final point. This evening’s event – a Gala to raise scholarship funds for the children of fallen military or law enforcement officers – is a microcosm of all that is good and pure about the people drawn to military and law enforcement service. We can never repay the debt that we owe to the fallen and their family members. And we cannot replace the void or take away the families’ pain. But what we can do is take care of the families and work tirelessly to make sure that the sacrifices that their loved ones made will never be forgotten. I am profoundly proud to be part of that everlasting cause.
May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you and Semper Fi.