Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Belated

"That two battalions of Marines be raised."

I hate missing birthdays, especially this one. To that end, apologies to everyone to whom the wishes should have been timely addressed.

November 10, 1775 is generally considered the birthday of the US Marine Corps. Samuel Nicholas, the first Commandant, used Tun Tavern in Philadelphia as his headquarters and recruiting office. Given all of the Marines I've known it seems most fitting and proper.

My late father enlisted in the USMC during the Second World War and fought in the Pacific. An early wave arrival on the black volcanic island of Iwo Jima, he fought to the end of the battle sustaining one injury - a cut on his finger from a can opener. Evacuated when the island was secure, he returned to their camp in Maui to a tent city of strangers and empty bunks.

Many decades later, ill and suffering the effects of a failed knee replacement, he would summon himself every 10 November, put on a USMC cap and follow my brother out the door to the birthday ball. Treated like a rock star, flirted with shamelessly by women of all ages, he proudly accepted the sabre to perform the annual cake cutting - an honor belonging to the youngest and oldest Marines in the room.

He's gone, as all Marines must someday. Yet, in a very real sense, the men and women who carry on the Corp's traditions give him an eternal presence. As with any immortal, Marines believe that Iwo Jima's sands, Falluja's streets and alleys, the frozen reservoir at Chosin and the many other places Marines have shed their blood for our freedom are hallowed, sacred.... Remembered forever for the Marines who went before them in the service of a higher notion - that free men and women are strong because of the value of the thing they defend.

Happy Birthday, Marines. Happy Birthday, Dad. We miss you.


  1. Good post Dad. Grandpa was an amazing man and an exceptional Marine. He was the "I can't believe you survived that" man and it served him well for so long.

  2. Thanks, Katy. Yeah, he was quite a guy.

  3. Howie - your comment means more than you'll ever know. Thank you.

  4. ... a footnote to your story and your father's heroism and service... I attended the ER Vet's Day ceremony and all I could think of was it won't be long before all our WW II vets are gone... so sad... hopefully the American people will never forget their sacrifice and bravery... to paraphrase Winston... Never is so much owed by so many to so many...

  5. So true, Howie. At a time when the forces of darkness were truly on the march, men and women left everything they knew to join the fight. their only certainty that many of them would come home only to be buried. That's a particular kind of courage that few men and women possess. Among my greatest joys are that others recognized my father's virtues (and forgave him his vices) and that there are still young men and women who answer the call. Steven follows in that long, unbroken line stretching from Valley Forge to Afghanistan and beyond. So long as they are around, they won't let anyone forget.