News: The French Fourragere: History and Tradition
Story by Cpl. Jeff Drew
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – A bitter winter chill bit deeply into the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, as they stood in an unwavering formation during the morning hours, recently. The rising sun peeked cautiously through the trees, offering little relief from the cold. The Marines, dressed in their finely pressed, crisp service alpha uniforms stood proudly, flanked by their brothers-in-arms. With this formation, they welcomed the new members of the battalion by rekindling an old tradition, the presentation the French fourragere, a braided green rope worn on the left shoulder of the service alpha uniform.
“I want you to be proud of this uniform and be proud of the fourragere that is on your shoulder,” emphasized Sgt. Maj. Larry J. Harrington, the battalion sergeant major for 1/6. “Be proud because we stand amongst history.”
This history and tradition behind the wearing of the fourragere is deeply rooted within 6th Marines. During World War I, the French government awarded the regiment three Croix de Guerre (Crosses of War) for especially meritorious conduct in action. Any unit awarded two such medals is entitled to wear a braided and knotted fourragere as part of their service uniform.
The Marines continued to stand firmly in silent discipline listening to the words of their battalion commander as he spoke of the heroism and sacrifice of past 6th Regiment Marines.
“Remember our legacy,” stressed Lt. Col. George S. Benson, the battalion commander of 1/6. “Recognize that fourragere that is on your shoulder, and although it may weigh only a few ounces, it carries the weight of the world.”
This weight fell upon the shoulders of Marines during the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I. Despite all obstacles that stood in their way, the Marines of the regiment overcame hardships and losses and took Belleau Wood with courage, vigor and tenacity, earning their first Croix de Guerre.
The Marines continued to Soissons and Champagne and although they were hungry, thirsty and had little more than rifles and the clothes on their back, they countlessly overtook enemy positions. Through heroism and bloodshed, they earned the Croix de Guerre two more times.
The fourragere now embodies this legacy for the 6th Marines. They wear it in remembrance of past Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice. For the Marines of the battalion, new or old, it symbolizes the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment and recalls the courageous conduct and fighting spirit of Marines and sailors of the past.
As the ceremony came to an end, the commanding officer left the Marines of the battalion with one final thought.
“I welcome all the new Marines to our battalion,” said Benson. “Wear the fourragere with pride. It is our legacy. Semper Fidelis.”