Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Happy 234th Marine Corps Birthday!
My boss, a former soldier, came over to me this morning to wish me a happy birthday, a Happy 234th Marine Corps Birthday. Along with his greeting, he mentioned a friend's son who is spending his first birthday at P'cola (Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.), locked down and confined to barracks because of Tropical Storm Ida. This made me think back to my first Marine Corps Birthday, way, way back when and many years ago.
I spent it, appropriately enough, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, during the fifth or sixth week of basic training – boot camp. Along with a slice of birthday cake in the 3rd Battalion mess hall, a rare enough treat, I remember the DIs (drill instructors, not drill sergeants) - maybe - being just a little bit easier on us that day. It was as if they were saying, "You may not be Marines yet, but this is OUR day and we're going to give you just a taste of what it's like to celebrate with us."
It was Sergeant Hart, Sergeant Vann and Sgt. Pearson's little gift to us, Platoon 3099. And yes, I do remember all of their names all of these years later.
Other Marine Corps Birthdays were spent in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Greensboro, N.C. (when I was in the reserves). All of them different, all of them special.
In '89, at Lejeune, I cleaned up at a friend's poker game. The following year we – Bob, Puddin, Lumpy, Underdog, Mike, Roof, Jenny, I Am The Way, Pepe, J.E.B., Bird, Tony and I – celebrated knowing sometime soon we'd all be heading overseas to war. And, in '95, I went to the ball in Greensboro in my Dress Blues with a beautiful girl I was madly in love with on my arm.
But, somehow, it's that first, humble birthday on the third deck of Building 423 at Parris Island, spent in utilities without an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on the pocket* that remains the most special.
Semper Fidelis! The Foggy Dew
As is tradition around here, here is this year’s Birthday Message from Gen. James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps. (Note: Before someone mentions the all caps, that's just the way All Marine -ALMARs - are transmitted. Nothing I can do about it since I'm not going to retype the whole thing.)
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC DMCS//
SUBJ/UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY MESSAGE - 10 NOVEMBER 2009//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1. UNITED STATES MARINES REPRESENT THE BEST YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN OUR NATION HAS TO OFFER. TO BE A MARINE IS TO BE A MEMBER OF AMERICA'S WARRIOR CLASS - TO BE ONE OF THE FEW WHO STEPS FORWARD WITH THE COURAGE AND CONVICTION TO FACE WHATEVER DANGERS AWAIT. OUR NATION EXPECTS HER MARINES TO BE READY WHEN THE NATION CALLS; TO LEAVE FAMILY AND THE COMFORTS OF HOME BEHIND; TO MARCH INTO BATTLE AND THRIVE UNDER AUSTERITY; AND TO COME HOME UNDER A VICTORY PENNANT.
2. FROM AL ANBAR IN THE WEST OF IRAQ, TO HELMAND PROVINCE IN THE SOUTH OF AFGHANISTAN, OUR CORPS OF MARINES CAN ALWAYS EXPECT TO BE FOUND WHERE THE FIGHT IS TOUGHEST. SUCH IS OUR HISTORY. TODAY, AS WE WRITE THE FINAL CHAPTER ON OUR VICTORY IN IRAQ, WE WILL INCREASINGLY TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY IN AFGHANISTAN AND ADD NEW PAGES TO OUR LEGACY IN PLACES CALLED DELARAM, NOW ZAD, AND GARMSIR. ONE DAY, WE WILL RETURN TO OUR NAVAL HERITAGE AND PATROL THE HIGH SEAS WITH OUR NAVY BROTHERS. SUCH IS OUR FUTURE.
3. AS WE CELEBRATE OUR CORPS' 234TH BIRTHDAY, WE FIRST PAUSE TO REFLECT AND PAY TRIBUTE TO THOSE MARINES WHO HAVE GIVEN THE LAST FULL MEASURE IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM. WE EXTEND OUR DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO OUR MARINE CORPS FAMILIES - THE UNSUNG HEROES WHO ENDURE HARDSHIP AND SACRIFICE SO THAT WE ARE ABLE TO GO FORWARD AND ACCOMPLISH ANY MISSION. WE EXTEND OUR APPRECIATION TO OUR COUNTRYMEN WHO HAVE ANSWERED OUR EVERY NEED. AND WE CELEBRATE THE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND WOMEN WHO WILLINGLY AND SELFLESSLY CONTINUE TO GO INTO HARM'S WAY TO PROTECT THIS GREAT NATION.
4. TO ALL WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE, TO THOSE WHO WEAR THE UNIFORM TODAY, AND TO THE FAMILIES THAT GIVE US THE STRENGTH TO FORGE AHEAD - I WISH YOU ALL A HEARTFELT HAPPY 234TH BIRTHDAY!
5. SEMPER FIDELIS! JAMES T. CONWAY, GENERAL, U.S. MARINE CORPS, COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS//
*I don’t know how they do it at Parris Island today, but back in the Old Corps the camouflage utilities we wore at boot camp were devoid of markings. No name tags, no rank insignia and, most definitely, nothing that might tend to identify us as Marines since we weren’t yet Marines. The day we got to iron on that black Eagle, Globe and Anchor to our breast pockets was a proud one.