Of course, it is fun to play dress up, the makeup, the heels (well maybe not the heels), the ball gowns, and the jewels, but what I truly love about the evening is the ceremony which includes two and half centuries of tradition. In a society where tradition is waning, a night devoted to heritage and history is cherished, honored and respected.
The evening opens with a video message from the Commandant and Sgt Maj of the Marine Corps including historic and current footage of Marine Corps missions. My heart swells with pride as I listen to the motivational message, reminding me of the love and gratitude I have for the Corps and the Marine I married. The Marine Corps Birthday comes near the end of the year when I’m exhausted by lonely nights, solo parenting and all the sacrifices our family experiences to ensure “mission first.” I begin feeling a bit negative and bitter in my relationship with the Marine Corps, but as I watch Marines of the past and present I am revived and inspired to continue forward in my Marine Corps life because I am reminded of the good the Marine Corps does in the world and my small sacrifices are for something so much greater.
After The Colors are presented the cake is escorted through the room in proper fashion, (which I think more ceremonies should do). After making its way down the aisle with all eyes on it, like a beautiful bride, the first slice is cut in true Marine Corps fashion, with a sword, which usually gets a few chuckles because only Marines would cut a cake with a sword. After the cake is cut, a piece is given to the oldest guest in attendance for sampling then passed to the youngest guest symbolizing the wisdom of seasoned leaders which is passed down to the younger generation of Marines. As my age drifts farther away from the youngest guest, and closer to the oldest guest I understand the need to nurture and honor this tradition to share guidance and knowledge with younger generations and it involves my favorite thing in the world--cake--so obviously it is my favorite part of the whole night!.
A single red rose signifies the blood that may have been shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of the United States, and to remind family and friends of the missing to keep the faith while awaiting the return of our comrades. A plate sits on the table with a slice of lemon reminding us of their bitter fate and salt to represent the tears fallen for them, the glass is inverted as they are unable to toast and celebrate with us, the chair tucked into the table as it is empty, a candle burns as the light of hope and will help illuminate their way home. Lastly, the American Flag serves as a reminder that many will never return home paying the supreme sacrifice to ensure the freedom of American. A prayer is said to protect those who are missing, to bring them home and comfort their families until their return.
Happy Birthday, Marines! Semper Fidelis!
Written by: Zaneta Padilla, all photos provided by Zaneta Padilla from the VMGR-252 243rd Birthday Celebration.