Marines Celebrate Corps’ 238th Birthday
Marines Celebrate Corps’ 238th Birthday
Marines and sailors from across Marine Corps Air Station Yuma joined a large crowd of area residents on Thursday to celebrate the U.S. Marine Corps’ 238th birthday, which recalled the glories of the Corps’ long and illustrious history and paid homage to past generations of those who had served among its ranks.
The formal celebration, which was held on the MCAS Yuma parade ground, included a pageant of uniforms worn throughout the Corps’ history, a reading of a historical message from the Corps 13th Commandant and the traditional cake-cutting ceremony.
In his remarks to those in attendance, Col. Robert Kuckuk, commander of MCAS Yuma, said that while the ceremony was intended as a celebration of the Marine Corps’ traditions, it also signified they were an organization of change, and some of those changes are happening right now.
Kuckuk said the Marine Corps is reducing the number of it’s personnel from 206,000 to about the 174,000 it was before the war on terrorism.
“It’s not all that unusual. It has been small before. It has been big before. And yet we continue to win our wars,” Kuckuk said. “It is going to be a different period. We are coming out of this period of conflict. For many of you in this audience, all you have known is a Marine Corp that has been at war.”
Another change Kuckuk said the Marine Corps is undergoing is that it is taking steps to reaffirm that the backbone of the Marines has always been the noncommissioned officers, and the Corps wants to bring that to the forefront and give them the leadership positions they have proven themselves in combat the past 12 years.
“If we change, we adapt, we progress and we innovate continuously in order to remain the finest fighting force this world has ever seen,” Kuckuk said.
Cpl. Uriel Avendano from the MCAS Yuma public affairs office opened the ceremony by sharing a brief history of the Marine Corps as the Marine Hymn played softly in the background.
“The word Marine spans time, places, people, personalities and exploits. This morning we gather to recall our past history, pay homage to past generations of Marines and to honor all Marines who have served in every clime and place,” Avendano said. “The faces of the Marines of the past tell the story of a tough, disciplined and proud people who loved the challenge and gave nothing but their best. Today the uniform has changed, but the motives remain the same. Sure, we are better educated, better trained and better equipped. But our duty remains the same. We are ready for anything, at any time and in any place.”
Avendano continued by saying, “At this very moment, from Paris Island to San Diego, from Okinawa to the Mediterranean, from Afghanistan to Iraq, our flexibility and responsiveness is clearly evident to anyone who would challenge our nation. It is the honor, courage and commitment of those who have proceeded us that have set the standards and made the Corps the proud fighting organization it has been since its inception in 1775.”
Since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, 1,148 Marines have made the ultimate sacrifice and over 9,300 have been wounded in action.
“We have faith in our God, love for our country, dedication to our Corps, belief in ourselves and a heritage that sets us apart from any other,” Avendano said. “We are the United States Marine Corps and we honor those who have passed before us.”
A reading of a special birthday message from Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, was also part of the celebration. In his message, Amos said this year’s birthday also marks the anniversary of several epic battles in the Corps’ glorious history: the 70th anniversary of the 2nd Marine Division landing on Tarawa, the 45th anniversary of the Battle of Whey City in Vietnam and the 10th anniversary of the march to Baghdad.
“The Marines who fought in these legendary battles each made their mark on the history of our Corps. They have passed a rich and illustrious legacy on to us, a much heralded reputation,” Amos wrote in his statement. “It is ours to jealously guard and it is up to us to make our own marks and thus proudly pass it on to the generations of Marines who will follow.”
Amos wrote that for the past 238 years, the U.S. Marines Corps has proudly served the nation with unfailing valor, bolstered by the enduring fortitude of fellow Marines, families and friends. From the first battle at New Providence to today in Afghanistan, Marines have always shown that they were made of tougher stuff, Amos wrote, and that they unequivocally knew their fellow Marines would stay behind their guns, fight courageously and drive the enemy from the battlefield.
“This is why each year on Nov. 10 Marines from all generations gather in groups large and small to celebrate the birthday of our Corps and to reflect on the proud legacy and warrior ethos we share. This is what unites us as Marines. We have always known hardship, fatigue and pain. But we have never known what it is to lose a battle,” Amos wrote. “Through our history, Marines have faced tough times, and there will be tough times ahead. But there is no challenge we cannot overcome if we remain honorable and always faithful to our nation, our constitution and each other. Because of your selfless service and your many sacrifices, our Corps remains strong and ready to respond to any crisis.”
During the uniform pageant, which commemorated the long lineage of men and women who have filled the Corps’ ranks for nearly two-and-a-half centuries, Marines dressed in uniforms took position on the parade field as their eras were read aloud. The uniforms dated from the time of Continental Marines to the present day.
The ceremony ended with the traditional cutting of the birthday cake. As per custom, the youngest Marine and the oldest Marine at MCAS Yuma cut the cake, which signified the passing of traditions from one generation of sailors to another. The honor went to Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Arnett, who was the oldest, and 18-year-old Pfc. Joshua Deane, who was the youngest.
“It connects the past with the present so that when we go forward, we know who we are,” Arnett said. “When the nation needs a fighting force, there are always some men and women who are trained 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, ready to go when our nation calls us, so we can step forward and accomplish the mission our country desires.”
Deane, who joined just over a year ago, shared similar remarks, saying, “For me personally, it goes all the way back and shows where we started to where we are now, 238 years later,” he said. “And how, yes our rifles and uniforms have changed, but the way we act has stayed the same. It is really awesome to come out here and be able to see everything that shows who we are.”
As with each Marine birthday celebration, a historical message from Gen. John Lejune, the Corps 13th Commandant, was also read. It stated that as long as the spirit of the Corps continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and that the men and women of the country will continue to regard them as successors to a long and worthy line of those who have served as soldiers of the seas since the founding of the Corps.
“Generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and every corner of the seven seas so that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security. And in every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, weighing new honors on each occasion until the term of Marine has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.”
His historical message ended by saying, “This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who have preceded us in the Corps. With it we also receive from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of Marines in every age.”
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.