PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 10, 2011) – Sailors and Marines aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) celebrated the Marine Corps’ 236th birthday on the ship’s flight deck Nov. 10.
Hundreds of Sailors and Marines stood in formation on the flight deck to witness the tradition of “passing the cake” during the ceremony. Gunnery Sgt. Juadalupe Deanda explained what the tradition means.
“It symbolizes the older generation passing the heritage and knowledge of the Marine Corps to the younger generation,” said Deanda. “The ceremony lets us know that the Marine Corps will live on.”
During the cake cutting ceremony, the Commanding Officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Air Combat Element, Lt. Col. Damien Marsh, cut the cake with a sword, and passed the piece of cake to the oldest Marine, who took a bite and passed it to the youngest Marine aboard to symbolize the passing on of knowledge and tradition.
The oldest Marine aboard, Sgt. Maj. Russell Strack, passed it to the youngest Marine, Lance Cpl. Darion Washington.
“It was an honor to be involved in the Marine Corps birthday celebration,” said Washington. “To be involved in the ceremony with someone like Sgt. Maj. Strack who has so much experience in the Marine Corps was very exciting.”
Essex Commanding Officer, Capt. David Fluker, said it was fitting to celebrate the Marines’ birthday while operating at sea.
“I cannot think of a better place to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday than on board Essex operating at sea with the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked,” said Fluker. “It is an honor to share this occasion with our Marine Corps brothers and sisters.”
Lt. Jason Dart, Essex chaplain, provided the invocation for the ceremony and said he was proud to pause from the daily schedule at sea to honor his Marine brethren.
“It’s always an honor to be a part of the celebration,” said Dart. “It was fitting to hold the Marine Corps birthday celebration while underway and to be able to celebrate while operational.”
Lt. Col. Damien Marsh, 31st MEU Air Combat Element (ACE) commanding officer, spoke about upholding the tradition of the Marine Corps.
“In the eyes of some, the past decade of war has blurred the lines between the Army and the Marines. As soldiers of the sea, we must embrace our naval heritage and reinvigorate our traditions,” said Marsh. “The birthdays you celebrate deployed are the ones you remember the most. I ask of you on this birthday to remember all our brothers that have gone before us and, sadly, those who have passed. I challenge you to remember that you are the vanguard for those that will follow. Marines, on your birthday and forever, stand tall and stand proud.”
The history of the Marine Corps dates back to Nov. 10, 1775 when the Continental Congress passed a resolution to form two battalions of Marines to serve as landing forces with the naval fleet during the Revolutionary War.
Essex, commanded by Capt. David Fluker, is currently conduction operations in the Western Pacific.