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Local Marines to celebrate 247 years

Slicing an elaborately decorated cake with a shiny sword just isn’t done at most birthday parties.

It will be done in a few days, however, when local Marines and Marine Corps veterans gather to celebrate the 247th birthday of their favorite branch of the American military.

The birthday is a big deal for Marines, according to Patrick Hickey, a Fort Dodge man who is commandant of the Mid Iowa Detachment of the Marine Corps League. He said the Marine Corps celebrates its birthday to a greater degree than the other branches of the military.

The celebrations are really about the bonds between Marines, Hickey said.

“Marines love being around Marines,” he said.

That means that every year around Nov. 10, Marines come together.

The Marine Corps was established on Nov. 10, 1775, by order of the Second Continental Congress. The Revolutionary War had started just months earlier in April 1775 with the battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. The United States would not declare its independence until months later, in July 1776.

The first Marines were mustered into service in November 1775 at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is considered the birthplace of the Corps.

In 1921, Gen. John A. Lejeune, who was then the commandant of the Marine Corps, declared that Nov. 10 should be observed as a special day to celebrate the birth of the Corps.

Hickey said active duty Marines celebrate the birthday with a formal ball. The Marines wear their distinctive dress blue uniforms; spouses and signficant others dress in formal wear. Marine Corps veterans celebrating close to home are not so formal.

The local celebration will be held on Nov. 19 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856, 518 S. 29th St.

“We encourage any Marine to come join us,” Hickey said.

He said the celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m.

There is a ceremony that includes reading the original Marine Corps birthday message issued by Lejeune in 1921. A message from Gen. David H. Berger, the current commandant of the Marine Corps, will also be read.

And then the cake will be sliced with a non-commissioned officers sword. Hickey said it is tradition to have the oldest Marine present and the youngest Marine present do the slicing.

And yes, they get to eat some cake.

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