Marines in Pakistan celebrate Corps’ 230th birthday
CHAKLALA AIR FIELD, Pakistan — No band played marches, there was no pomp and circumstance or fanfare. No neatly pressed dress blues emblazoned with medals, either.
But as Marines stood here in a dusty, dry patch of land Thursday evening wearing desert utilities and brown combat boots, they kept the “ev’ry clime and place” lyrics in the “Marines’ Hymn” alive — even if it was just for a birthday celebration.
After all, you only turn 230 once.
A small formation of Marines stood in the Disaster Assistance Center here as servicemembers from other branches looked on for the annual cake-cutting ceremony, a centerpiece of the Corps’ annual birthday celebrations.
While the Corps held formal balls elsewhere around the world, the invocation to this one was interrupted by the high-pitch whine of a cargo plane carrying relief supplies to this earthquake-devastated Central Asian nation. The traditional reading of the first- ever birthday message from the 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune, was read followed by that from current Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee’s message.
After the readings, Col. Mark Losack, deputy commander of the Disaster Assistance Center, cut a piece of cake, frosted red with a large eagle, globe and anchor on top. Following tradition, he handed the piece to the oldest former Marine present, 52-year- old Shaun Daley, who served in the Corps from 1974 to 1992. After taking a bite, Daley handed the cake off to the oldest active- duty Marine on hand, Lt. Col. William E. Holdorf, 48. Holdorf, after taking his bite, followed suit and handed the piece to the youngest Marine there, Lance Cpl. Barry Garrett, 20.
Garrett said this Marine Corps birthday ceremony was his first.
“This one right here will always stick out in my mind,” said Garrett, who had tickets to attend his first Marine birthday ball on Okinawa before duty called him to Pakistan.
The celebration will be the last for Holdorf. He said he is retiring in June after 28 years of service.
“This is special for me because, one, I get to spend my last birthday in the field, and two, I’m honored as the oldest Marine,” Holdorf said. “This is ideal.”
Holdorf said he has always considered it special to hold a Marine birthday celebration in the field.
“It’s fitting that we were able to come here and help Pakistan with the relief effort,” he said. “But it’s also appropriate that we take time out and celebrate our birthday.”
Losack explained to the Marines and guests the importance of carrying on the legacy and handing down traditions from one generation to the next.
“(It) reminds us of our responsibility to each other,” he said. “It reminds us of maintaining the high standards that have been passed on to us.”