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November 11, 2004
Happy Veteran's Day From Captain's Quarters

Today is Veteran's Day, when we honor the sacrifice of our men and women who served and are serving to defend and protect our nation and spread liberty around the world. When I got up this morning, I wondered how I would celebrate veterans like my father, my uncles, and many friends and co-workers and the many who have served among CQ's readership. Fortunately for me, CQ reader Bob S. forwarded another e-mail from his neice's husband, a major in the Marine Corps currently stationed in Iraq. Not only does he speak eloquently regarding the Corps' birthday yesterday, but he reminds us of the spirit and sacrifice of the US fighting men and women in all branches of the service.

Camp Victory, Iraq
10 November 2004

A Thought from Iraq Traditions & Reality

In 1921, then-Commandant of the Marine Corps John A. Lejeune, initiated the now storied tradition of a focused celebration of the Marine Corps birthday every year on the anniversary of the founding of our brotherhood, which occurred with a resolution of the Continental Congress on 10 November 1775. Ever since that time the intent of remembering our birthday has been simply celebrate ourselves and our Corps and cause Marines, young & old, retired & veteran to set aside a special time to remember what it is about our Corps that made us want to be part of it, and keeps us proud to wear the title today.

Some celebrations are elaborate, choreographed events that include live music and dancing through the night, and take place in luxury hotels or Officers Clubs throughout the Corps. Other events are more subdued, but all usually include music, the reading of General Lejeunes birthday message from 1921 and then the current Commandants message for the year, and then the traditional cutting of the birthday cake. The first piece of cake is given to the oldest Marine present whether he or she is still on active duty, retired or only served a couple years is irrelevant. After taking a bite of that piece, the oldest Marine then passes it to the youngest Marine present representing the unbroken line of tradition & honor that is passed from generation to generation of Marines.

In my career I have celebrated the Marine Corps birthday aboard a Navy ship docked in Rota, Spain, in hotels, gymnasiums, Officers Clubs and in a US Embassy, but this year I celebrated the USMCs 229th birthday in a place that a year ago or so I never would have even considered in a palace that used to belong to Saddam Hussein. Tonight we had a terrific ceremony in the huge rotunda of the Al-Faw palace here aboard Camp Victory, and then adjourned to the ballroom for a steak dinner. Now, we ate the steak off of plastic plates with plastic utensils, but we were in the ballroom of a palace of a tyrannical dictator, with all the ornamentation & ostentation of the interior decorating still very much part of the ambience.

The palace is on an island in the middle of a man-made lake, so to get to it you have to cross a causeway from the south side of the lake. As I was in the middle of the causeway on my way into the palace for the ceremony today, I happened to look out into the western sky and saw thick black smoke rising on the horizon and wafting to the north. That smoke was from the battle for Fallujah that is still going on as I sit at my keyboard. It is incredibly humbling and moving to having been part of our USMC birthday celebration here today knowing that as we reflect on what it means to be a Marine, many of our brothers tonight, at this very moment, are slugging it out in the streets of a city whose name meant nothing to most of us twelve months ago. The fact that they are fighting on the Corps birthday will not be lost on any of the Marines out there tonight. It will cause them to fight with even more pride and resolve. No one wants to let his fellow Marine down, especially on the day we celebrate our birthday. In the weeks & months ahead we will hear stories about how Marines in Fallujah celebrated this night in the alleys and rubble, and renewed their own commitments to our Corps and thereby, to each other.

Our Commandant and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps make a video every year to say, Happy Birthday to all Marines. In this years video message, the Commandant told a story of a young Corporal, a squad leader, who, during the invasion of Iraq was wounded by an enemy grenade. This Marine refused evacuation and continued to guide his squad until he passed out from loss of blood. Recovering at a US Army hospital in Germany, he convinced his doctors to release him, borrowed a set of camouflage utilities from a Navy Corpsman, called his wife and told her that he wasnt coming home because his Marines who were depending on him, and then talked his way onto an Air Force transport back to Iraq. He had the golden ticket. He was headed home as a war hero with the medals to prove it, but he just couldnt bear to let his Marines down, so he schemed & connived, as only a good Marine NCO can, and got himself back into the fight. There are those who will call that kind of response foolish. Then may God grant that I be such a fool. You may question the wisdom of that Marine, but hes the kind of man you want on your side when the chips are down. You should have heard the reaction of the ballroom full of Marines to that story. That one action has now inspired thousands of fellow Marines many of them very senior to that Corporal to press on and live our lives as Marines our families, and our nation, would be proud of.

Ill close tonight with an explanation of the attachment. A Marine lawyer here is a very accomplished vocal musician and conductor. He put out the word and we have assembled a mens chorus made of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel (plus one Royal Australian Navy officer). We have performed a couple times, but tonight we had our first big showing as part of the USMC birthday celebration. At rehearsal the other night we recorded the four-part version of, The Star-Spangled Banner that we sing. I thought you might like to hear what our Hard-Corps Chorale sounds like. Hope you enjoy.

To all Marines who end up receiving this HAPPY BIRTHDAY from Iraq!

Happy Veterans Day to all.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 11, 2004 6:19 AM

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