Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps, founded on 10 November 1775 in Tun Tavern, Philadelphia. Many millions of men and women have served Mother Green since that time and the Marine Corps has a proud tradition and reputation based on the legendary exploits and sacrifices of many of those men. Names like Chesty Puller, Smedley Butler, Presley O'Bannon, Joe Foss, Dan Daly, John Basilone, John Glenn (that's right, the astronaut and, later, U.S. senator), Carlos Hathcock, Lou Diamond, and many, many others.
My years of service were 1973-76 with an MOS of Morse Code intercept, meaning I sat next to a radio with a headset on monitoring Soviet frequencies and using an Underwood typewriter to hack out whatever messages they were sending to each other. "Put some miles on them dials" was an order frequently hollered out by supervision. We worked around the clock. Most of it was ship-to-shore communication and we were focused on what was being brought into and taken out of Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam during the waning days of that war.
I went through boot camp in San Diego and after was assigned to Co. "K" in Pensacola, Fla, home of the Naval Communication Training Center (later the Naval Technical Training Center) where one spends six months learning to become a ditty chaser, which is slang for those of us who spent our service years intercepting Morse. After graduation I was sent to Co. "C" Marine Support Battalion on Guam. Fifteen months later I was in Camp Geiger, North Carolina, a subsidiary base of Camp Lejeune. Both camps were named after famous USMC generals. My final stop on that three year hitch was Co. "L" in Guantanamo Bay. I traveled there from Cherry Point, NC, by C130, a six-hour flight, and spent the next six months on John Paul Jones Hill eavesdropping on Cubans during their involvement in Angola. I enjoyed all those duty stations. I remember Leon Spinks, the former heavyweight champion and Olympic gold boxer, was stationed at Camp Lejeune when I was there. I saw him once. Another Marine pointed him out to me and said, "Hey, that's Spinks, the boxer." He was huge.
I had the honor of being on a color guard for the Marine Corps Ball held on Guam on November 10, 1974. I've still got a photo somewhere of me standing at attention with a ceremonial sword. The two most important things to remember when functioning in that capacity are (1) don't drop the sword, which is easy to do since white cotton gloves are worn; and (2) don't slice your ear off with the blade tip.
This evening, I will be facing in the general direction of Tun Tavern with a cigar in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, raising a toast to my fellow Marines in acknowledgment of their courage, sacrifice and honor. Feel free to do the same and, as always, Semper Fidelis.