Each year, on the 10th day of November, Marines around the world celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday. Although there is a prescribed ceremony involving cake cutting with a sword and the recognition of the oldest Marine and the youngest Marine present, the birthday can be celebrated by cutting a cupcake with a K-Bar and exchanging the greeting, “Happy Birthday, Marine!”
This year a Birthday Ball was held jointly by the Gooney Bird Detachment and the L/Cpl. Jedh C. Barker Detachment at Season’s Banquet Hall in Washington Township.
Representing the Slattery Detachment at the affair were the Commandant, Paul Brown and his wife, Margaret; the Judge Advocate, Michael Dougherty and his wife, Elizabeth and Sgt. Luis Gomez (Ret.) and his canine companion, Caffe, both of whom were attired in their blue dress “B” uniforms.
The uniform of the day was the same as one would wear to a wedding: jacket and tie for the gentlemen, the equivalent level of dress for the ladies.
A fair number of guests, male and female, wore dress blues and several wore the Marine Corps League dress uniform.
Upon arrival, the attendees received their table assignments and were greeted with an invitation to the open bar. A small army of servers circulated throughout the room with varied and plentiful appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.
Sufficient time was allotted for socializing. Of particular interest was the arrival of a group of about eight South Korean (ROK) Marines, dressed in their version of our utility uniform. At least one of them was a Viet Vet and he spoke fondly about his recollection of USO shows at China Beach.
Also attending was Diane Hawkins, niece of John Basilone. Ms. Hawkins had previously spoken about the WW II service of Manila John at a Slattery detachment meeting.
After fair warning that the open bar would be temporarily closed, the Birthday Ceremony commenced.
The crowd rose for the National Anthem and the speaker read General Lejeune’s order establishing 10 November as the Marine Corps Birthday. He then followed with the reading of the Commandant’s Birthday message to the troops. The honored guests were introduced, spoke briefly and received plaques in recognition of their deeds.
The cake was wheeled in, the oldest and youngest Marines were introduced, the sword was brandished and the cake was cut. Numerous cheers, grunts and calls of “oohrah” emanated from the crowd, and when the cake was wheeled away, one was heard to yell, “let the festivities begin!”.
The bar was reopened and dinner was served. If anyone left hungry, it was not the fault of Season’s. Carving stations for turkey and prime rib formed the centerpiece of the meal, with numerous items of seafood, chicken and all kinds of side dishes available. The buffet and carving stations, together with an immense salad bar, provided ample opportunity to chow down, and the bar remained open throughout. Interestingly, although the quantity of alcohol and beer was unlimited and not rationed, no one appeared to have abused the privilege. (If anyone did, it was not obvious). Perhaps the attendance of the spouses encouraged the Marines to be on their best behavior.
Good food, free beer and esprit de corps.
Happy Birthday Marines!