USS RUSHMORE – Normally during the most important of Marine Corps celebrations, Marines would be looking sharp in their dress blue uniforms and seated at tables in a ballroom. Things were done differently during this festivity.
Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit swayed in formation as the ship pitched and yawned over a deep sea during the early celebration of the 237th Marine Corps Birthday, Nov. 7. Because the MEU is scheduled to conduct a training operation on Nov. 10th, the official date of the Marine Corps birthday, the event was held early.
All Marines were in attendance for the ceremony on the flight deck as the official message from the 35th commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, was read.
“The Commandant, in his message, reminds us that only a few Americans choose the dangerous, but necessary, work of fighting our nation’s enemies,” said Lt. Col. John J. Wiener, commanding officer, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU.
“The Marine Corps is what it is because of who you and I are, and we are who we are, in no small part, because of the training and experience the Marine Corps afforded us. So, as we celebrate our history, let’s reflect on what bonds us together,” added Wiener, speaking to troops during the celebration.
The cake-cutting ceremony was the main event in the time-honored ceremony. While most people use a spatula or knife to cut the first slice of cake, Marines use a sword to complete this rite.
The first slice of cake was given to the guest of honor, Cmdr. Brian Finman, commanding officer, USS Rushmore. The second slice was handed to the oldest Marine attending, Master Sgt. Jason C. Topp, operations chief, CLB-15, 15th MEU. After taking a bite, he handed to the youngest Marine present, Lance Cpl. Marcos A. Solis, a motor transportation operator from the same unit.
“This is the first time I’ve had the honor to be the oldest Marine at the ceremony,” said Topp.
“It’s humbling after being in the Marine Corps for more than 23 years to be that Marine. It’s something everyone thinks about but never believes will happen. I was able to pass on some words of wisdom to the youngest Marine present,” added the 41-year-old, Marblehead, Mass., native.
The passing of the slice of cake from the oldest Marine to the youngest Marine present symbolizes the passing of history and traditions to the next generation.
“It was great for my first time celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday,” said Solis.
“It was an exciting experience. It’s an important tradition because it gives us time to reflect and honor what we did in the past,” said the 19-year-old Mineral Wells, Texas, native.
After the ceremony, the Marines were dismissed to the mess-decks for evening chow. It’s customary for Marines around the world to be served a much deserved steak-and-lobster dinner as they reflect on the Corps’ illustrious past and promising future.
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout U.S. Central Command and the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.