USS MAKIN ISLAND, At sea - Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) gathered on the mess decks for a special ceremony and cake-cutting to honor the Navy's 236th birthday Oct. 13.
Capt. Jim Landers, Makin Island's commanding officer, hosted the event that included a performance by the Makin Island Choir and a cake-cutting ceremony.
"We are an island nation and 90 percent of our commerce moves by sea," said Landers. "Our founding fathers recognized the need for a strong Navy and laid the responsibility of maintaining a Navy upon Congress in the Constitution. Happy 236th birthday Navy!"
Landers also thanked the Sailors and Marines for having the courage to raise their right hand and take the oath to defend their country.
In keeping with naval tradition, the oldest and youngest Sailors aboard Makin Island joined the command leadership in cutting the cake.
Representing the oldest Sailor was 54 year-old Lt. Kevin Cain, a native of Jackson, Mich., assigned to Makin Island's combat systems department. Cain joined the Navy Sept. 27, 1988 and has more than 23 years of naval service.
"Joining the Navy at age 31 was a difficult decision," said Cain. "There were actually three people enlisting; myself, my wife of 10 years and our four year-old son."
"It's worked out well; the Navy has been good to all of us," added Cain. "I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities I've been given, and feel privileged to have called so many great friends and fellow Americans shipmates."
Sharing his own birthday of Oct. 13 with the U.S. Navy, 19 year-old Operations Specialist Seaman Brian Edwards was honored as the ship's youngest Sailor.
Edwards, a native of Maspeth, N.Y., joined the Navy Jan. 13, 2011. He said he entered the Navy for the educational benefits and to earn money for college.
"At first I thought it was a joke but then got excited when I found out it was real," said Edwards. "Sharing my birthday with the Navy makes me feel proud."
The U.S. Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established Oct. 13, 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America.
In 1972, then-Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of Oct. 13 as the Navy's birthday. The Navy's birthday is intended as a commemoration for members of the active force and Reserves, veterans, retirees, and family members.
Commissioned in 2009, Makin Island is named in honor of the World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion on Japanese occupied Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name "USS Makin Island."