That's yours truly in the photograph on the right circa 2003. I was part of the Forward Observation team for my artillery unit, Hotel Battery 3/14, 4th Marine Division. On this day I was also the SAW gunner, which is excellent for photo opportunities, but awful for comfort in the hot afternoon sun at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
My experience in the United States Marine Corps was brief (1998 to 2005), but the lessons learned and values instilled are paying dividends to this day. I am as grateful as any other American on this day for the heroism and sacrifice shown by our men and women in uniform, but I wanted to say a brief word about what the military means for MMA.
More than any other self-selected group or organization, the U.S. armed forces are either the most loyal or the most easily convertible fans for MMA. Show a video of a UFC event to a service member and they are instantly hooked. Unlike other would-be fans that take some measure of conversion, the U.S. armed forces get MMA right away. Even better, the get it right away for the right reasons: for the sport, for the competition, for the willingness of MMA athletes to sacrifice something in the course of physically fighting for victory. And to a suspicious and dismissive public who often try to armchair psychoanalyze MMA fans "penchant for violence", as fans of the sport the military offers an immediate measure of respectability no reflexive skeptic can ignore.
Of course, there are also the countless veterans of the armed forces who have made their way into the MMA industry. From fighters to promoters to writers, the overlapping interests of the military and MMA have large portions that intersect. There is a mutual appreciation and incorporation of a set of values both worlds employ. Both the military and MMA universes enjoy the grit of hard nosed competition, but also the asceticism involved in preparation, the sacrifice required for eventual success, and the push to improve one's self through diligent labor. One need not equate the activities of the military with MMA for each to share an admiration for the other, particularly when at a basic level they share so much in common.
On this Memorial Day and on behalf of the entire staff here at BloodyElbow.com, I say Semper Fidelis to my Marines and a heartfelt thank you to the U.S. armed forces for your service to our country and your boundless support for MMA. We are all better because of you.