Directors, Generals, Admirals, Sgt. Maj. Mykoo, distinguished guests, family members, and most importantly, Marines—thank you for attending and participating in today’s Mar5ine Corps ceremonial cake cutting and thanks for allowing Lisa and I to join you, we are indeed honored.
As I look around the audience, I’m capturing some immediate demographics. Now I have to be honest, the optic leans a bit toward the senior side of the age group, so let me start by proclaiming … a wise man once said, sometimes the best way to gain a new idea is to read an old book. How true that is. And so while you may feel that the pages through your career have become a bit wrinkled or the lettering has become a bit faded, you can absolutely credit that to the mere fact that the chapters of your upbringing have been thoroughly read time and time again by the very younger generation who still proudly wear the cloth of our Corps.
We are honored to share today’s birthday cake cutting with all Marines, all guests, but notably Marines in and around this room who for most have stowed away their uniform to their footlocker, but to this day still proudly serve and who from revile to Taps still feel Marine. Those folks are standing around this room who make up the inventory of battle-hardened leathernecks of past conflict, mentors, or those who have paved the way for us to climb the ranks to success, they are our role models and educators, they bring inexperience to expertise. Similar to the symbology when passing the piece of birthday cake, you are a major lifeline as to why our Corps can remain vibrant, resilient, relevant, envied by many, feared by most, and forever respected—we hope by all. You, along with many other Marines have set those conditions so that we all can patriotically and proudly celebrate our Corps birthday year after year, regardless of location, regardless of mission. Today’s Marines also represented here carry on your legacy and lineage. A generation that you’ve seen display the courage and bravery. A generation of warrior that will march to the drumbeat to defend our nation.
Whether coincidental or by sheer fate that our Corps’ birthday falls next to Veterans Day, I just think it’s expertly aligned that while on 10 November, we celebrate the birth of our illustrious Corps our nation quickly thereafter also acknowledges our entire Armed Forces—young and old, past and present.
Our Corps not only remains a tenacious band of brothers and sisters who protect our country at all costs, but our Corps postures as a uniformed force who serve as ambassadors of our nation. We are historically doctrine and shaped to primarily function and operate as a young force. But just as important around our bases and stations, throughout our ranks and files, regardless of age, seniority, and position, oru Corps also remains al earning institution.
My comment about being a learning institution reminds of a birthday ball that Lisa and I attended at Cherry Point in the late 90s. And I think you’ll enjoy this short piece. The aviation community really knows how to throw a bash. A normal aircraft hangar bay converted into a ballroom where the ambience and setting was so elegantly designed, Mr. Ray Charles would have looked at it and been in absolute awe. Anyway, the CG [commanding general] of the wing was Major General Spider Nyland, its Sergeant Major present was Pete Gante. Both were dressed in their evening dress. After the formalities of the ball were complete, it was the intent of the leadership to have all the Marines and guests come forward and meet the CG, sergeant major, their spouses. I remember walking upon a young private first class, standing there with his wife of 19 years old. You could tell their nervousness and hesitation, yet wanted to approach their leaders for a meet and photo. Lisa and I tried our best to make them feel at ease as we walked them up to Sergeant Major and Mrs. Gante. Now Sergeant Major Gante is a burly kind of fellow at that time about 55 years old. Again, was in his evening dress with cavalry rank insignia, bow tie, the works. And as Sergeant Major held out his hand to greet the young Marine and wish him a happy birthday, I believe it was at that point the PFC was so desperate to say something in return, so as the scanned over the Sergeant Major and seen this battle hardened mug, the large cavalry chevrons replicating insignia from the 1800s, his graying, yet distinguished appearance, the only response that seemed to seep from this young 19 year old as he looked up at the Sergeant Major was, “Are you still in?”
Like I said, our Corps is a learning institution. And there were multiple lessons learned from that engagement. Indeed, it made opportunity for some additional passing down of history and tradition. It was a memorable Marine Corps birthday for all.
And so each of us, young and old, build chapters and chapters of lifetime memories and like Marine Corps stories spanning from combat engagements to life in garrison from booth camp to retirement, from recovery in a hospital to embarked aboard an amphib. We will celebrate or Corps birthday in so many different time zones and in so many different settings. Identical to our Marines hymn that we have fought in every climb and place, so too do we each and every year celebrate our illustrious battle lineage and renew our honor and remember that privilege it is to be able to serve our country as United States Marines. Happy 237th birthday, Marines and from the bottom of my eagle globe and anchor, Semper Fidelis.