News: Marines celebrate 238th birthday in Afghanistan
Story by Cpl. Austin Long
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - Marines and sailors celebrated the Marine Corps’ 238th birthday with a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Nov. 7.
It is customary for Marines to pause to remember their history, traditions and success on the birthday of the Corps. The Marines’ history dates back to Nov. 10, 1775, at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, where Capt. Samuel Nicholas established two battalions of Continental Marines to serve as troops aboard Navy ships.
“The Marine Corps birthday (celebration) represents 238 years of selfless sacrifice to our great nation,” said Sgt. Maj. Paul Berry, the Regional Command (Southwest) sergeant major. “We must continue to honor those who have come before us and those presently serving who continue to be our force in readiness. Celebrating our Marine Corps birthday while being deployed in a combat zone is what being a Marine is all about.”
Before the ceremony began, bagpipers and drummers with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Highlanders) played the Marines Hymn. The small concert was a surprise gift from British forces in honor of the birthday.
It is customary for Marines to cut a birthday cake during the ceremony. Berry cut the first three pieces of the Marine Corps birthday cake with a non-commissioned officer’s sword.
The honorary guest, Maj Gen. W. Lee Miller Jr., commanding general of Regional Command (Southwest), received the first piece of cake, Master Gunnery Sgt. James McMillion, the oldest Marine at the ceremony, received the second, and Lance Cpl. Jonathan Jones, the youngest Marine, received the third piece.
The passing of cake from the oldest Marine to the youngest symbolizes the passing of history and tradition from the outgoing generation of Marines to the incoming.
A lone table was set to honor those Marines who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The table was draped with a black cloth to symbolize mourning. A single, lighted candle represented the flame of eternal life and that the memory of those fallen will be with Marines always. A Purple Heart medal was displayed to reflect the infliction of wounds and the ebb of life in battle. A set of identification tags were placed on the table, left blank to signify that they could belong to any Marine.
“As I move around the battlefield and look into the eyes of younger warriors, I pause and find myself so moved and proud of you,” said Miller, while addressing service members attending the ceremony. “Some would say our history is mystical, a large part myth, a small part lore. I’m here to attest that ours is neither myth nor lore, but legend. We are the keepers of the proud legacy of our Corps. We have earned the legacy of the eagle, globe and anchor; it is not given and it is not taken. It is etched forever on your heart.”