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How the U.S. Marines Work

Life in the Marines

Marines may be stationed at any of about 20 bases, camps and airfields throughout the United States (with several bases also located overseas). A housing stipend provides living quarters for Marines and sometimes their families, usually on-base. The newest Marines live in barracks similar to a college dormitory. Like other U.S. military bases, Marine Corps bases offer essentials (shopping, church, school, medical facilities) and a variety of recreational activities (sports teams, movie theaters, seminars, restaurants, bowling, et cetera).

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marines/Photographer: Pfc. Christopher D. Lyttle
Pfc. David V. Telles and Pfc. Jack E. Severson do a general cleanup of their barracks room.

Many Marines will spend portions of their active duty stationed aboard Navy vessels. For them, time on a Navy deployment (lasting roughly six months) is much the same as it is for the sailors themselves – cramped, busy and at times rather boring. Marines remain under the command of their officers while on board, but everyone on a Navy vessel is under the command of the ship’s captain.

Rails of a ship
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marines/Photographer: Cpl. Eric R. Martin
Marines and Sailors man the rails of the ship while pulling into a port in Palma, Spain.

During wartime, Marines experience an interesting range of hardships. The Iraq War offers the constant fear of roadside or suicide bombings and the uncertainty as to whether any given Iraqi citizen is an innocent civilian or an insurgent. They are far from home, facing death on a daily basis and watching their close friends get killed or wounded – in other words, life for a Marine hasn’t changed much in 200 years.

Leaving the Marines
As members of a U.S. military organization, all Marine Corps personnel are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Dismissal from the Marines can take a variety of forms, from an honorable discharge to a court martial, depending on the circumstances surrounding the dismissal. See How the Army Works for a full explanation.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marines/Photographer: Lance Cpl. George J. Papastrat
Veterans from the San Diego area raise their hand in salute during the National Anthem during a Veterans Day celebration.

Marine Corps veterans and retirees are eligible for a host of benefits ranging from burial in state cemeteries, health and life insurance, low-interest loans for mortgages or small businesses, and veterans’ health care. The full suite of benefits available may depend on the nature of the veteran’s dismissal – usually an honorable discharge or retirement is necessary for access to all benefits. A search for answers to specific questions about veterans’ benefits begins here: The National Archives.

For lots more information on the Marine Corps and related topics, check out the links on the next page.

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More Great Links


  • Fainaru, Steve. “For Marines, a Frustrating Fight: Some in Iraq Question How and Why War Is Being Waged.” Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2004.
  • Fisher, Cindy. “CMC: 'Changes in Corps' future will benefit marines' end-strength, restructure to increase crucial capabilities: big changes are on the horizon for the Marine Corps.” Marines Magazine, April-June 2005.
  • “Marine Corps Organization.”
  • Halberstadt, Hans. U.S. Marine Corps. Zenith Press (December 17, 1993). 978-0879387693.
  • Lawliss, Chuck. The Marine Book: A Portrait of America's Military Elite. Thames & Hudson; Rev Sub edition (June 1992). 978-0500276655.
  • “Historical Timeline.”
  • Time Magazine. “The Next Marine Battle.” March 30, 1970.,9171,942207-1,00.html