Caissons, Anchors, and Semper Fi: The Roles of the United States Military

Caissons, Anchors, and Semper Fi: The Roles of the United States Military
Rosalynn Carter: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Two or more class periods


The military has been a large part of the adult lives of many of our presidents and their wives, such as the Jacksons', the Grants', the Taylors', the Eisenhowers', and the Carters'.  Today, the roles of the military and the specific responsibilities of its various branches have changed since the early years of our republic.


The purpose of this lesson is for students to compare and contrast the responsibilities of the various branches of the United States military services and to identify the specific ways in which these have changed over time.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print reference materials.


1.  Divide the class into five groups, one for each branch of the military, by whatever means are normally utilized.  It is possible that students may enjoy selecting their groups for this activity based on their interest in a particular branch; however, the groups should be nearly equal in size.  Assign one of the following branches to each group: 

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • Navy
2.  Each group is to research their particular service branch, paying particular attention to the following areas:
  • Date of origination
  • Purpose of branch at its beginning
  • Purpose of that branch today
  • Location and nature of its academy education for officers
  • Types of training offered to enlistees
  • Conflicts/wars in which it has participated
  • Slogan, emblem, and song/chant
  • Best known historical and recent members of that branch

3.  Student groups will share their findings and then discuss the comparisons and contrasts both between the original purposes and present-day uses of each branch of the military.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson offers an opportunity for the teacher to involve community members by inviting retired or on-leave members of the military to visit with the class.  Students may also wish to communicate as a class with a local member of the military serving abroad.  In addition, the teacher may wish to also include the National Guard in the list of service branches.

Sources & Resources:

The United States Army 
Careers in the Army 

United States Air Force 
Careers in the Air Force 

The United States Marines 
Careers in the Marine Corps 

The United States Navy 
Careers in the Navy 
The Naval Historical Center 

The United States Coast Guard 
Careers in the Coast Guard 
In addition, the Wikipedia articles on the branches of service give excellent historical information.
This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.