You can call a Marine a jarhead, a devil dog or even a rag man. You can call him a boot or a buddy or a brother. You can call him for chow and you can definitely call him sir — or ma'am.
But do not call a Marine an ex-Marine.
Let me repeat that, do not call a Marine an ex-Marine.
This much became apparent here at the Deseret Morning News last Wednesday after reporter Pat Reavy's story about the heroics of a former U.S. Marine named James Sjostrom appeared with this headline:
Ex-Marine takes down man after clerk is hit.
Sjostrom was in line at a 7-Eleven when a man trying to flee with a stolen carton of cigarettes punched the store clerk, a woman, in the face. Sjostrom rushed to the clerk's defense, subdued the burglar and waited for the police to arrive.
Judging from the hits on the newspaper's Web site, nearly 100,000 of them, and dozens of e-mails to Reavy, the story resonated with a lot of people.
"One for the good guys. This story made me feel good," wrote one reader, echoing the sentiment of many others:
"Did my heart good."
"A hero of the highest calibre."
"Thanks for the wonderful story about the Marine taking a stand."
"Nice story about the Marine who apprehended the jerk."
"How can I send $$ to the Marine?"
"Wish I could buy him a beer."
"The mayor needs to give that Marine a medal."
"Somebody tell that young former Marine that a lot of us old former Marines are very proud of him."
"Never run from a Marine. It'll just make ya die tired!"
But along with the praise for Sjostrom, many people also wanted to point out that the headline had one serious shortcoming.
There is no such thing as an "ex" Marine.
"Great story, but please remember that it's 'former Marine' not ex-Marine."
"Those who have had previous service in the Marines are referred to as 'former Marines.' Calling someone an ex-Marine is an insult."
"Please note that there are no former Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine. When we die we are then classified as dead Marines but we are still a part of the Glorious Green Machine, only very, very inactive."
"Unless the guy received an 'Other Than Honorable' discharge he should be called a Marine. Calling someone an Ex-Marine is an insult."
"As the father of a former Marine let me inform you (and your headline writer) that the enshrined tradition of the Corps is that the only ex-Marine is Lee Harvey Oswald."
"The only ex-Marine I can think of is John Murtha."
"I am a former Marine ... loved your story ... I thought you may want to know ... no such animal as an Ex-Marine ... either Former Marine, Marine Not On Active Duty, or Deceased Marine."
"As the young man proved , there are only Former Marines, never, ever ex."
And my personal favorite:
"PS. There is no such thing as an EX Marine.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and faxes to 801-237-2527.