CAMP BARBER, Afghanistan — When the Continental Congress resolved in 1775 that two battalions of Marines be raised, the U.S. was a fledgling nation at war with Great Britain.
While America has certainly evolved throughout the course of time, so has the Marine Corps. Two battalions of Marines have come together once again – this time to celebrate the Marine Corps’ 233rd birthday while Marines and sailors are serving in harm’s way on the front lines of combat.
Marines and sailors of Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan joined in celebrating the illustrious history of the Marine Corps with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, the ground combat element replacing them in support of the NATO-ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
Serving in Afghanistan since April, the Marines at each forward operating base (FOB) of TF 2/7’s area of operations were all able to enjoy a cake-cutting ceremony. For many of the young Marines, particularly those deployed for the first time, celebrating the Corps’ birthday on the forward edge of battle was quite motivating.
“I think it shows the young Marines that the Marine Corps Birthday is a special day to all Marines, even when it’s celebrated in a combat zone,” 1st Sgt. Rummel continued. “Many of these young Marines have never experienced a true Marine Corps birthday ball ceremony. I’m sure this story will be told many times of how they were in Now Zad, Afghanistan, and they were still able to find a way to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday.”
The celebrations were two-fold for TF 2/7 during the morning hours. As the Marines and sailors were preparing to celebrate here at the headquarters camp, Task Force Commander Lt. Col. Richard D. Hall was busy traveling around his battle space so that he could personally wish each Marine a “Happy Birthday.” At FOB Now Zad, he greeted Fox Company Marines who secured the landing zone. Cake and ice cream were unloaded, as the helicopter’s rotors swirled in the background.
Fox Marines arranged a modest ceremony, honoring the Marine Corps birthday tradition by reading aloud the birthday messages of Gen. John A. Lejeune, the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps, and Gen. James T. Conway, the current commandant of the Marine Corps. During the ceremony, the first piece of cake was presented to the oldest and youngest Marines present. After the ceremony, all the Marines were served cake and ice cream.
Marines and sailors of Company G also celebrated the Corps’ birthday with time-honored traditions. They shared the event with Italian forces and members of the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army with whom they work closely. They also got a special treat from one of their own, Lance Cpl. Maximillian Mollersimpson, a former member of the Silent Drill Platoon, when he performed drill movements for his fellow Marines.
“It was really unique that we could celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday in a combat zone,” said Cpl. Brandon G. Bardos, a mortarman and Maui, Hawaii native.
Golf Company’s 1st Sgt. Jimmy S. Sanchez echoed Cpl. Bardos’ sentiments.
“There’s no better way to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday than out here in the fight with your Marines,” the San Antonio, Texas native said. “It’s more memorable for me being able to celebrate with the Marines after all they’ve been through. I think this is a birthday celebration the Marines will remember for a long time because they celebrated with their coalition partners in a combat zone.”
The Marines and sailors of Weapons Company and Headquarters and Support Company kicked off their celebration at about the same time, joining their fellow comrades of the incoming battalion. Lieutenant Col. David L. Odom, commanding officer, 3/8, and Sgt. Maj. Matthew B. Brookshire, TF 2/7, presided over the ceremony. After cutting the traditional birthday cake and giving the first piece to the oldest and youngest Marines present, Lt. Col. Odom addressed the formations and wished the Marines a “Happy Birthday.”
“Today is a day that should make you proud, because Marines and sailors all over the globe want to be where you are right now, at the edge of the saber, at the point of entry, in the crucible of combat where you have stood and continue to stand; ready for all and yielding to none, that will only continue,” said Lt. Col. Odom. “Know that every day your commitment across all the MOSs here has contributed to the legacy of our Corps.”
As the 3/8 commander continued, he spoke about the sacrifice made by each of the Marines. He also talked about those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
“Know that your sacrifices are making a difference to the people of Afghanistan. Your time here away from your families is well spent,” he said. “Honor the sacrifices of your brothers by taking care of each other and by accomplishing our mission every day. Today is a day of celebration. Today is the day that you are on the line; today you take your place alongside the legions of Marines who have gone before you. Fortune favors the strong, and strong you are indeed. Be proud of yourselves, stand tall and know that Lt. Col. Hall, your sergeant major and I are proud of what you have done and what you will do. Stand tall, Marines, ‘Happy Birthday and Semper Fi.’”
After the formation, the Marines were treated to a birthday meal of steak, chicken and crab legs. As they were served by a few of their commanders, the Marines were given a chance not only to celebrate the birth of the Marine Corps, but also to step away, if only for a few minutes, from the daily routine of life on deployment.
For many of the Marines, like Cpl. Ruben A. Prado, a TF 2/7 administration clerk and Show Low, Ariz., native, the birthday celebration while deployed was a motivating experience.
“Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday while deployed to Afghanistan really shows the commitment and tradition that defines Marines,” Cpl. Prado said. “No matter what the situation is we’re put in, we fall back on our traditions, including celebrating the birth of the Corps.”
The two battalions celebrated together as TF 2/7 prepares to be replaced by 3/8. While operating throughout the Helmand and Farah provinces, TF 2/7 has carried out the mission of conducting counterinsurgency operations with an emphasis on training the Afghan National Police.