I am a D.D.
“There once was a minister named Tweedle
Who refused an honorary degree.
‘Twas bad enough being Tweedle, he said,
Without being Tweedle, D.D.’”
The “D.D.” in the little rhyme stands for “Doctor of Divinity” which, in nearly every case, is an honorary degree granted to clergy or theologians, not an academically earned degree. A few weeks ago, I became the holder of the degree of “D.D.”
No, it’s not an honorary doctorate, nor was it awarded by a church, university, or seminary. In fact, one cannot ever hope to possess this degree unless one holds an Honorable Discharge from the United States Marine Corps or has served as a Navy Corpsman to combat Marines.
I am a member of the Marine Corps League, a veteran’s organization open only to active or honorably discharged Marines and Navy Corpsmen who served with the Fleet Marine Force. Once one is a member of the MCL, after about a year’s service, one can be nominated for membership in The Military Order of the Devil Dogs, which has been described as the “fun and honor society” of the Marine Corps League.
While I cannot reveal the inner workings of the MODD, I will share that, for the first year of membership in the MODD, one is regulated to the lowly status of “pup.”
After that first full year, which I suppose is a bit like a probationary membership, one can attend the state MODD convention and there receive what is described as “the degree of Devil Dog.” Which I did. And, so, I received the D.D. degree.
Most of the D.D. candidates, and there were 15, had some age on them. In fact, I may have been among the youngest of the group and I am 60 years old. When the 15 “pups” were being sworn in as “Devil Dogs,” they were asked to take an oath which included these words: “To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic...” All of the 15, and all those present at the convention, had taken a similar oath many years before upon entry into the Marine Corps.
Some of these men had seen battle in Korea, Vietnam, Beirut, in the Middle East, and in other violent places. Some in the room had fought their way across the Pacific to smash the Japanese Empire when they were young and strong. Now, a few in the room used canes and at least one was in a wheelchair.
But this much I knew: every person present – even those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s — would have no hesitation whatsoever taking up arms once again and fulfilling their oath if the need arose. Even among the grandfathers and great-grandfathers, there was still the warrior spirit and the willingness to put their lives on the line once again, if the opportunity arose. It was a moment of clarity and solidarity that brought a lump to my throat.
Someone once asked me what was the proudest moment in my life. I have a few educational and athletic accomplishments, have received some accolades and recognition, but my answer was, “Graduation from Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.” It was the day I became a Marine.
That pride grew a bit a few weeks ago when I became a D.D. and realized that pride in God, country, and Corps is not only for the young and strong but for all those who are patriots at heart and are still willing to give the “last full measure of devotion,” as Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, whatever the age or cost.
I have been, I am, and always will be, a Devil Dog. Semper Fi.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]