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    Marines celebrate 234th Corps birthday in austere conditions

    Marines celebrate 234th Corps birthday in austere conditions

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Luis Agostini | Marines with Regimental Combat Team 7 roll out the birthday cake during the 234th...... read more read more

    HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    11.10.2009

    Story by Staff Sgt. Luis Agostini 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Approximately 300 Afghanistan-deployed Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 7 celebrated the 234th Marine Corps birthday here in more austere conditions than the lavish ceremonies to which many Marines stateside are accustomed.

    Standing at attention with rifles slung across their backs, the Marines and sailors celebrated the 234th Marine Corps birthday with fellow warriors from RCT-7 in a sand-covered lot, surrounded by concertina wire and Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles.

    And the Marines here, like Sgt. Esequiel Romero, wouldn't have it any other way.

    One year ago, Romero was making final adjustments on his Marine Corps blue dress uniform, ensuring any loose threads were removed, ribbons and medals were aligned and brass buttons polished.

    He was getting ready to celebrate the 233rd Marine Corps Birthday at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel with approximately 500 fellow Marines and guests from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif. He and his friends enjoyed drinks poolside before the ceremony commenced, and spent a night out on the town in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter.

    On Nov. 10, 2009, the former drill instructor from San Antonio, donning a sand-covered, desert-brown, camouflage uniform, with a rifle slung across his back, and a 9 mm pistol strapped to his right thigh, shared in the tradition Marines across the globe hold sacred.

    "It feels better celebrating it here than back home, taking all of the luxuries out of the equation. The luxuries don't make a celebration. Celebrating with fellow Marines does. Here, we are more worried about being here for each other, enjoying the simple things we have here," said Romero, 30, who serves as a unit movement control center clerk with RCT-7, tracking unit movements throughout southern Afghanistan.

    Other Marines throughout southern Afghanistan celebrated the Corps' birthday as well. At Forward Operating Base Delaram, Afghanistan, home to the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Marines paused to celebrate the Corps' birthday, and the grand opening of the FOB's dining facility.

    In other areas of the country, Marines continued pushing forward conducting counterinsurgency operations in support of Afghan national security forces.

    The processions were the same as any other Marine Corps birthday celebration.

    A four-man color guard marched the colors into the center of the lot. The RCT-7 adjutant, Capt. Ethan R. Astor, read Gen. John A. Lejeune's message.

    Birthday messages from Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Brig. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding general, Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan, were read.

    A three-layered yellow cake with the Marine Corps emblem designed on top was rolled across sand to the center of the lot, where the unit's commanding officer, Col. Randall P. Newman, and the youngest and oldest Marine present, shared a piece of cake.

    While many Marines were accustomed to the ceremony's sequence of events, the impact gains greater significance experiencing them in a combat zone.

    "Hearing Gen. Lejeune's message is always the same. The feeling of being a Marine is always the same. Being here, though, puts into perspective the sacrifice we are making," Romero said.

    "This one had ten times more importance than any other one I've been to. On previous birthdays, you remember Marines that sacrificed, but this time, it's the guys next to you that are sacrificing, guys you know. It created a drive for my guys to excel the way they did, because I'm sure they felt the same," said Master Sgt. Brian M. Velloza, 46, RCT-7 mess chief from Brooklyn, N.Y.

    The absence of the festive atmosphere did not detract from the spirit of camaraderie or the honoring the tradition of the date Marines hold sacred: Nov. 10, 1775.

    "No one here is celebrating the birthday wondering, what kind of dress or shoes is my date going to wear, are where are we going to celebrate afterwards. They're more worried about taking care of one another, making sure morale and esprit de corps is high," said Romero, who has deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "I'd rather be here on the day of our birthday, than [back in the United States]. Here, you can lead young men and women in combat, especially those young devil dogs on their first deployment."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.10.2009
    Date Posted: 11.10.2009 22:53
    Story ID: 41396
    Location: HELMAND PROVINCE, AF 

    Web Views: 1,363
    Downloads: 1,148

    PUBLIC DOMAIN