Why the Marine Corps Birthday Matters
The time for celebration and pageantry is once again at hand with the 240th Marine Corps birthday set to take place Nov. 10.
What does the celebration mean to Marines across the globe? To Gen. John A. Lejeune, obviously, it meant a great deal. On Nov. 1, 1921, he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, which provided a summary of the history, mission and traditions of the Corps. The illustrious Lejeune directed that the order be read to every command each subsequent year on Nov. 10 in honor of the founding of the Marine Corps.
It will certainly be read in locations across the United States, Afghanistan and across the globe wherever Marines might be found. It might be a silent observation in a austere location, or perhaps a more ceremonial reading.
Either way it was formalized in 1952, by Commandant Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., who directed the celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday be formalized throughout the Corps. The details were included in the Marine Corps Drill Manual approved in 1956 and helped bring together the inclusion of a cake ceremony and other traditions still held every year at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
One key piece is the passing of the first piece of cake from senior to junior Marines; it is a symbolic gesture of the passing of experience and knowledge. That tradition begins in recruit training and at Officer Candidates School, where knowing where one comes from, knowing our past and living up to that example set is emblazoned in the minds of those in training.
Do we consider that? Do Marines take the time to think of that example set before us? When Marines see a veteran, do they think to themselves, "how will the Corps carry on after I am gone?"
To some this might seem trivial, it might be an afterthought. Not to the Marines in Afghanistan, or the 589 Quantico Marines who volunteered to perform community service in 2011, or even the Marines who will find themselves supporting the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend-their mark on history shall not be tarnished.
Nothing Marine Corps was an afterthought to Roland Brooks, an Iwo Jima veteran and Texas Marine Corps League representative who was present at a Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington, Texas, July 3, 2009. Although Brooks had trouble standing for long periods and had difficulty walking due to bad knees, he insisted on standing while poolees took their oath of enlistment in front of the Texas crowd.
The temperature on the field was more than 100 degrees, but Brooks said he was going to be a part of the ceremony no matter what the cost. He wanted to be that symbolic representation of the Corps. He wanted to, even if it meant he might die.
To that end we should emulate that example, and take part in history. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and revel in the spectacle and unabashed camaraderie that can be found at the Marine Corps ball.
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