The Marine Corps excels at three things: winning wars; creating warfighters, and operating the best public relations machine in the world. As such, everyone in the United States has seen the phrase Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi. It could be in a recruiting commercial, bumper tag, or shouted an overenthusiastic veteran. It’s a popular phrase, but what does Semper Fi mean?
Well, today, we are going to cover that and talk about all the other Sempers used by the military. Believe it or not, the Marines aren’t the only branch that embraces a Latin phrase.
Semper Fi and Semper Fidelis
Semper Fi is short for Semper Fidelis. It’s more than just a motto. Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful,” and it’s been the Marines’ motto since 1883. The phrase can be used as a greeting or cheer, and immediately identifies a Marine regardless of his or her active status in the Marine Corps.
The phrase signifies both the Marines’ dedication to their branch and the country, and the Corps’s cult-like atmosphere. Semper Fi is without a doubt the most popular branch motto in the United States.
The newly formed Space Force had to come up with their own motto, and they wisely took a page of the Marine Corps playbook with the phrase Semper Supra. This Latin phrase means “Always Above.” It’s quite appropriate for the Space Force, who is literally always looking above and outward.
The newest branch also promises to be the most technological branch and being always above also makes sense. While the Space Force is still new, the phrase might also be a bit ego-driven, saying that Guardians are always above the competition, which would be China, Russia, and the like.
The phrase Semper Paratus means “Always Ready,” and that’s remarkably appropriate for the Coast Guard. We all like to give the Coast Guard hell, but they are the only service that does its core mission 365 days a year. They don’t have a choice but to be always ready and prepared to hit the high seas at a moment’s notice.
I’ve worked with numerous Coast Guard personnel and have always found them to be professional, competent, and well trained. I would certainly say they live by their motto. Funny enough, the phrase Always Ready was first bestowed upon the Coastguard in 1836, well before the Marine Corps adopted the most famous use of a Latin motto.
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) adopted the phrase Semper Vigilans, which means “Always Vigilant.” It’s a proper name for the Air Force Auxillary unit. I know I said this article was about military organizations that use the phrase, but we’ll make an exception for CAP. It’s a great organization that does great things for the country.
The phrase always vigilant makes a lot of sense when you read what CAP accomplishes. They are called in times of emergency and tasked with search and rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian service, and supporting the Air Force. The men and women of CAP must remain always vigilant and ready for the next emergency.
Semper Gumby is not an official motto of any organization, but it is the unofficial motto of every military branch. Everyone feels it sometimes and it means always flexible, not literally, but in spirit. In Latin, “Always Flexible” would be Semper Flexibilis. Instead, this humorous motto comes from the clay kids show Gumby.
It’s a joke shared between servicemembers due to the fact they have to be flexible with their mission set, skills, expectations, time off, and basically everything when serving. Things change at the drop of a hat, and you gotta be flexible to accommodate a life of constant change.
Over and Out
Now you know what Semper Fi means, as well as all the Sempers used by the United States military. These phrases are often more than a motto. They are an explanation of a culture, of an expectation, and more. How one Latin word became so widespread in the United States military is beyond me, but it fits.
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