BREEZY POINT, N.Y. -For the past week, Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., have been in the midst of the hardest-hit communities of New Jersey and New York assisting the people whose lives were so abruptly devastated by the fury of Hurricane Sandy.
Without hesitation, the Marines answered the call to help their fellow Americans rummage through what’s left of their homes and work to clear away the wreckage in the wake of this historical storm.
Today, Marines in Staten Island and Breezy Point took a moment to pause from the recovery efforts and share birthday cake, a 237 year-old Corps tradition, with local residents, emergency responders, local authorities and veteran Marines.
“It was probably one of the most exhilarating and positive things that I’ve felt since Hurricane Sandy came through,” said the Hon. John G. Ingram, Kings County New York State Supreme Court Acting Justice. “I’d rather have the United States Marines here than Sandy any day. It was an honor to participate in the celebration of the USMC’s 237th birthday. This community appreciates the service of our dedicated warfighters, who have given so much to so many, and I was so happy to participate in the celebration of the Marine’s birthday.”
Working in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Army National Guard and local authorities to clear out roads and access ways to help residents affected by the storm, the Marines believe this is all just part of what Marines do.
“We’re excited to be celebrating the birthday as all Marines are and very happy to be here assisting this community,” said Maj. Craig Clarkson, 8th ESB Detachment Commander and Falmouth, Mass., native. “I don’t think there’s any place these Marines would rather be than up here helping out in New York. It’s a great place to celebrate our birthday and we're fortunate to be celebrating with some former Marines from the community.”
The Marines expressed their enthusiasm to help and also to share their traditions with the people here.
“I’m excited to be here because we're helping; it’s part of our nature as Marines,” said Sgt. Jacob Baron, an operations non-commissioned officer with 8th ESB and native of Perry, Ohio. “It's not just us celebrating, its also retired Marines who are coming out who are part of the police and fire departments. I’m honored to be out here.”
The Marines have completed their work in New York and New Jersey in close partnership with the people of the communities they are assisting.
“The first days (after the storm) were rough and we had no idea how we were going to get through this mess,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, a long-time resident of Staten Island. “But when the word got out that Marines were here, we knew for sure we’d be helped. This is beautiful. Happy birthday, Marines, we’re so proud and grateful you’re around.”
Whether it’s after a tsunami in Japan, an earthquake in Haiti, or a hurricane in New York City, afloat and ashore, the Navy-Marine Corps team is well-equipped to respond to national disasters when required.
“We will continue to draw strength from our rich heritage and the shared values of the Marines to our left and to our right,” said Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, in his birthday message to all Marines. “We know who we are ... we know what we stand for. As ever we will strive to be found worthy of the legendary trust of our fellow Americans. We are most proud of our well-earned reputation for answering the clarion call first.”
For 237 years, Marines, young and old, have celebrated the Corps’ birthday as their own. Across the globe, Marines are saying happy birthday to one another and most certainly, pausing to celebrate and reflect on the Corps’ rich legacy and values – no matter where they are or what they’re doing.