CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (WNCT) — On Friday, U.S. Marines around the globe will celebrate 248 years of service to the nation.
“It’s a time where we kind of honor our legacy, honor our traditions, we also reflect back on our fallen, reflect back on the past, but also look forward to the future,” said Col. Aldolfo Garcia Jr., Commander of Marine Corps Installations East.
The Marine Corps is composed of Marines who are each part of a long and powerful legacy of honor, courage, and commitment, and the traditional birthday celebration unites all those, past and present, who have earned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.
“It signifies that we’re honoring, you know, those that have gone before us. And that oldest marine gives the cake to the youngest Marine, and the youngest marine signifies our future,” Garcia said.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune will host a traditional birthday cake-cutting ceremony at the installation theater on Friday at 11 a.m.
The birthday, also known as Marine Corps Day, was originally celebrated on July 11, 1799 until 1921, when Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune issued an order to formalize the tradition and establish an official day to honor the birthday of the Marine Corps. The ceremony traditionally includes a guest of honor, a reading of Lt. Gen. Lejeune’s birthday message, recognition of the oldest and youngest Marine present and the cake.
The oldest Marine at Camp Lejeune is Ralph J. Rizzo, 56, who has served 34 years.
“It’s about knowledge and experience and passing those things on our history and our customs to the next generation of Marines that will take us forward and continue to do what we do fight and win our nation’s wars. So it’s special,” Rizzo said.
The youngest Marine at Camp Lejeune is Kinyeta Jackson, who is 17.
“It’s an honor. And I am grateful that I was able to be a part of it,” Jackson said.
The ceremony will also honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice with a missing man table and a moment of silence to remember their legacy and reinforce the idea of being the first to fight.
“We stand ready,” Rizzo said. “We stand ready on behalf of this nation and Marines are forward deployed as we speak, doing the nation’s bidding and keeping the war from the door.”