236 Years of Marine Corps Tradition
On the 10th day of November, a festive yet earnest ceremony will be repeated at Marine Corps facilities around the world. A cake will be cut with the first piece going to the oldest Marine present. He will take a bite, and pass the cake to the youngest Marine in the room. Whether it is carried out at a luxurious gala or under a tent in the desert, the ceremony not only recognizes the official birthday of the Marine Corps, it symbolizes the passing of knowledge and experience from one generation of Marines to the next.
Legend has it that the first battalions of the branch were recruited in a Philadelphia tavern in 1775 and since then, the Marine Corps has been a bastion of closely guarded traditions that represent its members’ commitment to duty and prowess in the field of battle. Nearly every aspect of a Marine’s existence is rich with symbolism and historical significance.
- The Marine Corps emblem of an eagle, globe and anchor signifies America, the Marines’ worldwide presence and the branch’s Naval heritage. Seen another way, the emblem implies the Marines’ calling to defend the nation in the air, on land and at sea.
- Semper Fidelis, the Marine Corps motto meaning “Always Faithful,” guides Marines to remain true to their mission, to themselves and to each other.
- The Mameluke sword, part of the dress uniform of Marine officers, dates to the early 1800s. After Marines marched across 600 miles of African desert to expel pirates from the “shores of Tripoli,” a local chieftain showed his gratitude by presenting the sword to Lt. Presley O’Bannon.
- The Marines’ Hymn, perhaps the country’s most recognizable military march, is also the oldest official song of the U.S. Armed Forces and a venerated part of Marine Corps culture.
- The red “blood stripe,” which runs down the trouser leg of Marines’ dress blues, represents their fallen comrades.
While these traditions and many others will be visible on the Marines’ birthday, they are more than showpieces for special occasions. They are reminders of the Marines’ long history of service, sacrifice and hard-fought victories in the name of freedom.
|“In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term ‘Marine’ has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.”— Excerpt from Marine Corps order No. 47 by Commandant John A. Lejeune, issued in 1921. The order is read aloud at every Marine Corps birthday celebration.|
From the American Revolution to the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines have earned their formidable reputation. Today, more than 200,000 Marines continue to build on the proud legacy of their predecessors, merging their reverence for the past with the practical skills and technology America needs for the future.
As the country evolves, so will the Marines, and new traditions will be built on top of old ones. USAA will be here to honor them all.
This content is provided courtesy of USAA.