Semper Fidelis

Andrew Paradis - Anson, Maine
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, October 21, 2011
Andrew Paradis

Andrew Paradis nearly buckled from the stress of caring for his wife who had a physical disability and suffered from mental illness. But the former Marine found strength in the Corps’ motto of “always faithful” and vowed never to quit on his wife and family.

Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

My foundational belief, the one thing I find that I can count on in myself, and that I cling to in times of crisis, was formed during my service in the U.S. Marines. Their motto is “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful.”

In the Corps, that motto translated to the idea that you never leave your partner, especially in times of great need. You are there not to save or protect yourself, but to make sure your buddies are safe and protected; simply put, the mission and your comrades are more important than you are, and you realize quickly that you are engaged in events far larger than yourself.

Since serving in the Corps, I have been challenged to remain always faithful. Several years ago, my wife, who has a physical disability (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome), began suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, bipolar disorder. In the months leading up to her eventual diagnosis and treatment, she attempted suicide three times. I did all I could to keep up as much of a normal life as possible, especially for our young daughter, who also has Ehlers-Danlos. I didn’t want her to think of her mom as crazy, as a person who couldn’t be her mom anymore.

Over the winter my endurance began to wear thin; I felt alone in an emotional storm, all guidance systems offline. There were times of deep weakness in which I almost gave in to my wife’s late-night whispered pleadings to help her kill herself: “Just turn the other way,” “Just take Ana to visit your parents for the weekend.” But in the few islands of calm, I was able to somehow rekindle the spirit of that Marine Corps motto. I decided that if nothing else, I would not quit on the woman I loved; I would not quit on our daughter. If it brought me to my knees, so be it. I would see her through her recovery process. I needed to be there to make sure she was safe and protected, regardless of any impact that would have on me.

Now, four years later, my wife is on good meds and in good therapy, and she has regained her true, loving self. Our daughter has her mom back, I have my wife back, and she has herself back. And it is because of this fundamental belief, this notion that you never quit on those you love.

Semper Fi.

Andrew Paradis is a former U.S. Marine and current theoretical physicist/software engineer. He grew up in Fort Kent, Maine, with four younger brothers, who correctly tortured him for his many idiosyncrasies. He lives and works in western Maine with his wife and daughter and their dogs, cats, and horses.