MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS -- The Marine Corps was born on November 10, 1775 in Tun Tavern, a small Philadelphia pub. On that day, the Continental Marines were established with the intended purpose of being able to fight for independence on land and at sea. Over the years the Marine Corps has evolved into a force capable of defending its people and providing humanitarian aid to the nation and its allies from air, land and sea, all while maintaining itself as a force in readiness.
“Being a Marine is something I take pride in, and that is instilled in us from day one,” said Sgt. Maj. Abel Leal, Headquarters Battalion Sergeant Major. “We are warfighters and the way we operate is very unlike the other branches. I’d like to think every Marine has some of our values instilled in them.”
Since the Marine Corps’ inception it has been known as the nation’s force in readiness. Marines are recognized by the way they train, the customs they uphold, and the morals that are instilled in them. Although the organization continues to grow, many of the customs have remained the same. The Marine Corps’ birthday is one of the many traditions that Marines take great pride in celebrating annually.
“The ball is a tradition that we celebrate every year,” Leal said. “I bring a family member to the birthday ball because they don’t understand it in the same way [Marines] do. But when they see all the ceremonial events in it; the moment of silence for our fallen brothers, the reading of Gen. John A. Lejeune’s birthday message and the passing of the cake from the oldest Marine to the youngest, they get to share in the pride that we feel.”
Although tradition is something Marines hold dear, there was a time when the birthday wasn’t always widely celebrated. In 1921, Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune declared November 10, an official Marine Corps holiday. Since then, whether it was a small celebration between fellow comrades while deployed or a grand affair while in garrison, Marines have taken the time to honor the Corps’ illustrious history.
“I love the Marine Corps Birthday,” said Sgt. Maj. Ray Wilburn (ret.), veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. “It doesn’t matter where you are or how many Marines you’re with. Two Marines can celebrate it with a cup of water while deployed and it will still have the same meaning.”
The Marine Corps Ball has been regarded as a time-honored tradition that celebrates the birth of the Corps. It is a night that provides Marines from all generations with a chance to come together, recognize the sacrifices made by those who came before them, and celebrate a proud heritage.
“It’s nice to celebrate the birthday in fancy venues, but we shouldn’t get wrapped up in that,” Leal said. “We should focus on celebrating our birthday for the heritage and tradition that comes with it.”
The birthday is a day that does more than celebrate a beginning. For Marines it signifies much more. The birthday stands for a day when those from all generations, who swore an oath to protect and serve, can join as one to share in the pride of being a United States Marine.