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Sgt. Phillip Mitchell, motor transportation operator, Headquarters Battalion, lets a student from the Morongo Unified School District look through the sights of an M16 A4 service rifle after the uniform pageant and cake-cutting ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, Nov. 6. At the end of the ceremony, elementary and middle-school students from schools participating were able to talk to role-players directly. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria/ Released)

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

Marines of old: Combat Center peers into past with uniform pageant

12 Nov 2014 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria Marine Corps Forces Reserves

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Marines took a step into the past as warfighters throughout the Marine Corps’ history were given new life. One-by-one, the Marines of old took to the field; walking, talking and dressing as they were all those years ago. Combat Center Marines wore the uniforms to recognize different eras of the Marine Corps during the annual Uniform Pageant at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, Nov. 6, 2014.

This event is held during the week of the Marine Corps birthday on November 10, with this year marking the 239th birthday of the Corps. The event began with the uniform pageant and presenting of the colors.

“The birthday is a time to celebrate the history of our Corps and the legacy of success in battle,” said Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, Combat Center Commanding General.

Uniforms worn by Marines included those in service during the war of 1812, 1898, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom I and II, and the present-day Blue Dress uniforms.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings knowing that you can take part in honoring Marines who paved the way for us to be where we’re at today,” said Sgt. Phillip Mitchell, motor transportation operator, Headquarters Battalion. “I was portraying Desert Storm and Desert Shield-era Marines ... You get to feel a little piece of what it might have been to be a Marine from a past generation.” 

Elementary and middle-school students from the Morongo Unified School District also visited the base to watch the pageant aboard the Combat Center. At the end of the ceremony, children were able to talk to role-players directly.

“Seeing the looks on the children’s faces as they observe the uniform
in amazement is nice,” Mitchell said. “Then you actually show them the weapon, slide the bolt to the rear, let them look down the sights, and this look of excitement comes across their face ... Somewhere down the road they may wear the uniform and you see that inspiration in that moment; the twinkle in their eye.”

Each uniform presentation included a detailed description of conflicts Marines of that era served in. For some role-players, their part in the ceremony included a little more than just marching. Marines were given lines of dialogue, such as Marines singing parts of the "Marines' Hymn" from the 1800s, a loud ‘Semper Fidelis!’ from the WWII-era Marine, or the Marine from the Vietnam-era dodge-rolling and aiming through his sights on the way to his position on the field, to capture the audience.

“There are Marines right now serving around the globe. In fact there’s hundreds of Marines from the [Combat Center] serving, many of them in harm’s way. Whether they’re in a combat outpost, protecting a U.S. embassy or somewhere on a ship at sea, every one of them will take a moment on or around November 10 to reflect on the history of our Corps and what it means to serve as a Marine,” Craparotta said. “[For those] wearing the uniform today, it is important that we remind ourselves that we have an obligation to live up to the legacy of the Marines who came before us.”

A cake-cutting ceremony was also featured during the event which signifies the passing on of tradition from the oldest Marine in attendance to the youngest. The oldest Marine in attendance was retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Ray V. Wilburn, 95, who passed on the piece of cake to the youngest Marine present, Pvt. Brandon Munguia, 18, student, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School.

“Being given this opportunity to be part of this tradition gave me a huge sense of honor,” Munguia said. “The pride I felt was almost indescribable. Seeing someone who has served for so long in the Marine Corps and hearing some of his stories gave me something to look forward to in my career.”

The title that Marines throughout the Corps’ history have earned with sacrifice and fierce warfighting is passed on through 239 years of service to the current generation of Marines. In that way, those who came before are honored and live through the Marines who wear the uniform today.

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