248 Years Old, Marines? You Don’t Look a Day Over 200
Given the expansive coverage of all things military during the Global War on Terrorism era, it seems impossible that most people aren’t aware of the Marine Corps’ Birthday. Add to that the prominent media coverage of Marines inviting A-List celebrities to the formal function, and it would seem anyone not living under a rock would have some passing familiarity with the historical occasions’ existence.
As a Marine, an American, a historian, and a writer, I am intimately familiar with the experience from all four perspectives; in fact I have more writings about the history of this occasion on this very site. This year I am 248 years old; my journey having begun on 10 November 1775. “But you weren’t born until the 80’s” you might say. My lack of knee cartilage and my history tell you to get stuffed.
What is history, under this lens? For one thing, I know more Army history from watching Armed Forces Network television than most soldiers tend to retain. Does it help that watching AFN on an eight-hour loop for 15 years meant I saw those Army history commercials one too many times? Sure. But I also watched Border Security: Australia's Front Line so much that when I went a few years back I was mentally prepared for a cavity search and for my editor to go straight to prison for several felonies.
With the Army birthday being 14 June 1775, they only predate Marines by 149 days. Big whoop, and how many Army vets read that and went, “oh man, is that when our birthday is?”
Between family, friends, and my current supervisor, I spend a lot of time around Air Force personnel. They always seem surprised and confused when I say “Happy Birthday” on 18 September. In Baghdad a few years back, the dining facility made them a cake, and they were confused as to why. This all comes as a shock to me for two reasons. First, as someone who must endure badly crafted Navy jokes, one would assume the Air Force would be happy to be free of their Army origin, in order to make their own mark. Second, they share their birthday to the day with the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947. Why would you not make that a conspiracy theory of some kind?
Don’t get me started on big Mother Navy. Before anyone decides I’m a hater, I will tell you that not since well before the Magna Carta was signed has a member of my family not been in military service. My Gran drove ambulances during WWII, my uncle decoded Soviet messages in the dead of night, and my daughter puts some of the most advanced aircraft ever built in the sky every day. Having said that… The Navy began only 28 days before the Marine Corps and consisted of mostly privateers at first. Who couldn’t defend their boats. Which is why the Marine Corps came to be. So lower your voice, Sailor.
Guardians… Maybe once the training wheels come off, we can talk. It’s not your fault that you’re so new the cosmoline hasn’t been cleaned from your color guard’s fake parade rifles yet (do y’all have enough people to form a color guard?) so picking on you seems unfair. If you don’t know what cosmoline is, well then, I have my answer.
Now that I’ve taken a few loving swipes at my brothers and sisters, a few admin notes to consider. First and foremost, they are my brothers and sisters, so I have the right to talk smack, but if anyone steps up to them, they must go through me. Especially the Navy, since I guess that was our original function before we became dragon slayers.
Next comes the important one. Celebrate your birthdays, everyone else. I can understand how it might be intimidating. Marine Corps Dress Blues are so coveted that the Air Force even tried to copy them. (It did not go well.) When we have our Birthday Ball, the formal ceremony can be almost as daunting as watching Marines dressed in a uniform with only an inch of play drop their butt to the dance floor and back. Despite being better at it, which come on, we always will be, the other services deserve their day in the limelight. History and tradition are part of what makes the Marine Corps the unhinged animals on liberty and the professional desolation of the enemy on the battlefield that Americans have come to know and admire; it’s far past time for the other services to stand up and claim their own. Or at least have better jokes when they don’t.
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