San Diego -- Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Western Recruiting Region, and Marines stationed at MCRD proudly shared the Cake Cutting Ceremony honoring the Marine Corps’ 237th birthday with the Wounded Warriors aboard Naval Medical Center San Diego Nov. 5.
“We do this to keep tradition,” said Gunnery Sgt. Scott Chromy, drill master, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. “By bringing the ceremony to the wounded Marines, we show our appreciation for the sacrifices they have made.”
Not every Marine can celebrate the birthday due to the severity of their injuries, scheduled appointments or rehabilitation, so having the cake cutting ceremony at the hospital allows the Marines a chance to enjoy the tradition and be reminded that they are not forgotten.
Marines have been celebrating the Marine Corps birthday for many years now, but the first ceremonial birthday was celebrated in 1925. The ceremony was formalized by Lemuel C. Shepherd, 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps, in 1952 by highlighting the cake cutting ceremony, which later entered the Marine Drill Manual in 1956.
“The cake cutting ceremony symbolizes the passing of tradition,” explained Chromy. “Throughout the generations, our values and traditions remain the same even through all the changes we’ve faced.”
The ceremony took place in the courtyard of the medical center where Marines, sailors, veterans and civilians were all invited to watch.
The cake was slowly marched out to a slowed down rendition of the Marine Corps’ Hymn. It was brought to host, Read Admr. Forrest Faison III, commanding officer, NMC San Diego, and to his guest, Yoo.
The tradition is to offer the first piece of cake to the guest of honor as a sign of respect and to recognize their contribution to the Marine Corps.
The second piece is given to the oldest and youngest Marine present at the ceremony. This symbolizes the experience and youthful spirit that is the trademark of the Corps. The oldest Marine present was Robert W. Samuel, born Oct. of 1923 in Pacific Beach, Calif., and he served in the Marine Corps from 1942 to 1962.
He then passed it to the youngest Marine present, Lance Cpl. Neil Altomayor, born June 1991 in Albuquerque, N. M., and has served in the Marine Corps since 2010. The passing of the cake from the oldest to the youngest symbolizes the passing of tradition, knowledge and history to the next generation.
The cake was then slowly marched back, where it was cut into several pieces so that Yoo and Marines in the ceremony could pass them out to veterans and the Wounded Warriors that couldn’t make it to the ceremony.
“I have mixed emotions about the ceremony,” explained Lance Cpl. Danny Solis, an injured infantryman. “It gives me pride, but I always think of my Marines that have lost their lives.”
Solis has been serving in the Marine Corps since 2007, and injured his leg in Afghanistan July 2011. He explained how Marines before us have made the ultimate sacrifice so that Marines of the future can celebrate this birthday.
“Life is fragile,” said Solis. “We’re celebrating the birthday, but we’re also celebrating the Marines lives that we lost.”
With another year down, and many more to go, the Marine Corps will continue to honor its traditions and be the world’s finest fighting force.