NEW YORK - America's top Marine has a message for his troops: The Confederate battle flag causes "division and not mere disagreement" and the time has come to take it down.
In a letter to be published in the Marine Corps Gazette, Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, asked "every Marine" to understand that one of his duties is to build "this team" and "identify symbols or subcultures that degrade the cohesion that combat demands of us."
"In this vein, I have determined it is time to act to exclude from our Corps public displays of the battle flag carried by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War," Berger wrote. "In doing so, I am mindful that many people believe that flag to be a symbol of heritage or regional pride. But I am also mindful of the feelings of pain and rejection of those who inherited the cultural memory and present effects of the scourge of slavery in our country." (Scroll down to read the full letter.)
Since taking command of the Marine Corps in July 2019, Berger has announced several initiatives to modernize the armed service. In February, he informed commanders to get ready to remove "Confederate-related paraphernalia," such as flags, bumber stickers, signs, and other items from all Marine Corps facilities, the AP reported.
Gen. David H. Berger and his letter to Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo | Marine Corps Gazette)
In his letter, which was posted to his social media platforms, Berger said he doesn't judge what the flag means to anyone or if their views are correct or not. He said his focus is on building a "uniquely capable warfighting team."
"This symbol has shown it has the power to inflame feelings of division," Berger wrote. "I cannot have that division inside our Corps."
The commandant wrote that he wants Marines to focus on symbols that unite the team, such as the eagle, globe and anchor, which is the official emblem of the corps.
"The stars and stripes. Our battle colors. Our [Marine pattern] uniform," Berger wrote. "Team over self: that is how we must operate to fight and win."