GENESEO – Retired Marine Colonel Gary Anderson didn’t use a knife to cut a cake celebrating the Corps’ 245th birthday.
He used a sword. It’s part of the tradition.
“It is about a 100 year-old tradition,” Anderson said. “All over the Marine Corps. All of the active duty stations they do the cake cutting.”
The cake-cutting ceremony celebrates the birth of the U.S. Marine Corps and is annual renewal of each Marine’s commitment to the Corps and it’s commitment to peace and freedom worldwide.
The Marine Corps Birthday is always observed on Nov. 10. The birthday was created on Nov. 10, 1921, by the federal government to show appreciation for the United States Marines. In Geneseo, local Marines have been hosting a birthday event for the past three years.
This year’s celebration was at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo. On Nov. 10, Marines along with family and friends came out to uphold what they call an important tradition.
“They say once a Marine always a Marine. We welcome everyone who has been honorably discharged or friends of Marines,” said Anderson, , a retired infantry officer who as a counterinsurgency and emerging threats specialist saw service in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and was part of a humanitarian mission to Bangladesh..
As part of the cake cutting ceremony a slice of cake is passed from the oldest Marine to the youngest. This year the oldest Marine was Dick Platt who passed the cake to the youngest Marine, Todd Smith.
“It is important to me that every year we do the ceremony. It keeps up with Marine Corps traditions. It is always humbling to be able to come out and still celebrate that,” said Smith.
The birthday was officially recognized in 1921. Since then a series of standards as to how to celebrate the birthday was executed in the 1950s.
“In small bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria they always cut the cakes with a fighting knife. It is traditional for all of the Marine Corps to do it,” said Anderson.
As of 2017 the Marines had more than 186,000 active duty members and 38,500 reserves.
For some, becoming a Marine was an unexpected choice.
“When I went through boot camp they said you are going to be a Marine for the rest of your life. I said to myself I am going to be a Marine for three years and then I am out of here,” said Platt.
“It is true, though, once you are a Marine, you are a Marine forever,” he said.
It is a celebration that many said was also important to help remember those who came back and those who didn’t.
“The reason that I joined the Marines was that I had a cousin that was missing in action in the Army and the Marines have a history of bringing their bodies back,” said Platt.
With the COVID-19 pandemic Anderson acknowledged the birthday celebration was a bit smaller this year. Despite the reduced size, many said it is an event that they will remember long after the birthday party is over.
“Since the 245 years that the Marine Core has been around this has been a tradition,” said Smith. “The Marines are very big on tradition so we are always excited for this time of year to come out and do this.”