General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., the 30th Commandant, was a man of character, a mentor, and a good friend I’ve known since 1994. On April 2 he died peacefully at home, surrounded by family, having struggled with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma. His email updates describing the ups and downs of what was happening since his diagnosis last June reflected serenity and even a bit of humor as “Team Mundy” closed ranks.
Many memories come to mind. In the millennium year, we were the guests of the 32nd Commandant, General Jim Jones, at the International Naval Review 2000 in New York Harbor. My photos of the splendid flotilla of tall ships sailing by our observation post aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau, anchored near the carrier USS Kennedy, included the World Trade Center in the background.
After 9/11, I wondered whether we would ever see such an awesome naval spectacle in New York harbor again. Today I wonder whether we will ever see a Marine Commandant like Gen. Carl Mundy ever again. He embodied everything good about the culture of the Marine Corps. He also knew it was up to him to fight for it.
I remember General Mundy telling me that unlike other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commandant traditionally is the single person to whom Marines can turn for support when facing difficulties. Mundy took that responsibility seriously, especially in matters involving families.
When President Bill Clinton was pushing to repeal all Defense Department regulations regarding gays in the military, Gen. Mundy resisted because he cared about his Marines. He took some heat for that, but like most intelligent people, Mundy had a quick wit and sense of humor that put everything into perspective. He embodied both dignity and humility, often making self-deprecating jokes when his principles and his candor led to criticism in the media.
General Mundy and his wife Linda, who passed away last year, were strong supporters of the Center for Military Readiness. And they literally rolled up their sleeves to help in personal ways. In 1995, when a feminist attorney filed bogus, harassment litigation against CMR and me for publishing the truth about double standards in naval aviation training, General and Mrs. Mundy personally stuffed envelopes at home, helping to raise money for our successful legal defense.
They did something similar in 2009, in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s push to repeal the 1993 law regarding gays in the military. For more than a year, the personal signatures of 1,167 retired Flags & General Officers for the Military, in support of sound policy and the 1993 law, held the line in Congress. That impressive effort would not have come together without the leadership of Carl Mundy and a host of high-ranking colleagues who had confidence in him.
He was always busy in his post-retirement years, providing support to the troops as President and CEO of the USO, and as Chairman of the Marine Corps University Foundation. A call to his cell phone played the Marine hymn, and sometimes he answered while happily tooling down North Carolina mountain roads in his RV with Linda.
Carl Mundy also supported the magnificent National Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, VA, which celebrates the values of many heroic Marines who fought with courage and integrity in our nation’s wars. I was honored to know two combat leaders whose legacies are represented at the museum, 27th Commandant General Robert H. Barrow, who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, and Col. John Ripley, the hero who took down the Bridge at Dong Ha in Vietnam.
I was fortunate to know these legendary men and to have as a mentor and friend General Carl Mundy, to whom I will always be grateful. All of them were truly Semper Fidelis. May the Marines be blessed with future leaders who aspire to follow the examples that they set.
Elaine Donnelly, Center for Military Preparedness