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Sgt. Alejandro Castellano(second from left), 37, utilities maintenance chief, Support Platoon, Company B, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, passes a glazed pastry to Lance Cpl. Dimitri Murray, 19, an electrician with Support Platoon, during a Marine Corps birthday ceremony Nov. 13 in Rutbah, Iraq. Castellano and Murray were the oldest and youngest Marines present. It is customary at a Marine Corps birthday ceremony for the oldest Marine to pass a piece of cake to the youngest Marine, symbolizing the passing of traditions from the older Marines to the younger Marines.

Photo by Cpl. Shawn Coolman

Engineers celebrate Marine Corps birthday in austere location

13 Nov 2008 | Cpl. Shawn M. Coolman

Surrounded by miles of vast desert, Marines with Support Platoon, Company B, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 celebrated the Marine Corps birthday here amongst friends Nov. 13.

The platoon is conducting operations in the area in support of Tango Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, RCT-5 and took a short break to celebrate the Marine Corps’ 233rd birthday.

“It’s definitely my honor serving here with you (Marines) out here,” said 1st Lt. Michael C. Yeo, 25, officer-in-charge, Support Platoon, from Billerica, Mass., as he addressed his Marines. “(Today) is about you, and the (Marines) who can’t make it to any more Marine Corps (birthday ceremonies). It’s your night. Happy birthday, Marines.”

Instead of partaking of the many customs found at a traditional Marine Corps birthday ceremony, the Marines made due with what they had available in the sparse environment here.  They substituted cake with glazed pastries and a cooked meal with Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MREs).

“It’s definitely not a traditional Marine Corps (birthday ceremony), but we adapt and overcome, and we make do with what we’ve got,” said Gunnery Sgt. Lucien G. Duranleau, operations chief, Support Platoon, from Gilsum, N.H.

Although brief, a few of the time-honored customs and courtesies were still adhered to during the ceremony, including the passing of a piece of cake from the oldest Marine present to the youngest Marine present.  The passing of the cake symbolizes the older Marines passing on traditions to the younger Marines.

“This is my first (Marine Corps birthday ceremony).   I came into the Marine Corps in June 2007, and I was on leave from my military occupational school waiting to go to 1st CEB during last year’s birthday,” said Pfc. Steven G. Aguirre, 20, an electrician with Support Platoon, from Kearny, N.J. “I think the passing of the cake from the oldest Marine to the youngest Marine was pretty cool.”

While deployed, the Marines here spend almost every moment with each other creating a close-knit bond.

“We have gotten real close since we have been out here,” said Aguirre. “(Coming together on the Marine Corps birthday) lets you know that you’re not the only one going through the same stuff. It’s all about having each other.”


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