CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Ar Ramadi, Iraq -- It would seem like any other day spent here in this desert war zone, with Marines standing guard on the walls and patrolling the streets, except for the celebration in a crowded room aboard camp.
The sailors, soldiers and Marines of 2nd Marine Division took a moment from their hectic schedules Oct. 13 to celebrate the Navy’s 230th birthday and its illustrious past, remembering those who served their country throughout history.
It was on this day in 1775 that the Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted to man two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns as well as swivel guns. Each vessel was assigned an 80-man crew with a mission to intercept transport ships carrying munitions and supplies to the British army in the colonies.
“However modest that beginning, there can be no question of the vital role played by the U.S. Navy in defending freedom throughout our nation’s history,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chief of Naval Operations, in a birthday message to his fellow sailors. “In wars large and small, at sea and shore, American Sailors have proven time and time again the enduring value of strength from the sea.”
Since its humble beginnings, the Navy has grown into the world premiere Navy and has fought in numerous wars, ranging from the Quasi-War and the War of 1812 to Vietnam and the Gulf War. Now, 230 years later, in an ocean with no water, sailors serve alongside their fellow brethren in the armed forces as they fight in the Global War on Terrorism ... a fight that has taken them to the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq. A fight in which many of their brethren have given their lives for a cause which their Navy was originally founded: Freedom.
“We prove it yet today,” Mullen continued in his message. “The nation is again at war… a long and treacherous war ... and we are again stepping into the breech to fight it. From the mountaintops in Afghanistan to the wind swept sand of Kuwait and Iraq, from the warm, still waters of the North Arabian Gulf to the broad expanse of the Pacific Rim, we are taking the fight to the enemy.
“Let there be no doubt that we are winning. Afghanistan is free, democracy is being born in Iraq, Al Qaeda, though potent, is weaker. Even the devastation wrought by natural disaster on our own shores and to our own families is eased. The lives of millions of people are better because of our efforts and the sacrifices of our loved ones.”
The sacrifices made up to the time of this ceremony were great among the ranks of sailors within the 2nd Marine Division. Since taking command in Iraq on March 16, five sailors died fighting alongside their Marine brethren and 81 have been wounded. Yet still Navy corpsmen walk the streets of Iraq aiding wounded Marines, the Chaplain Corps administers to the religious and spiritual needs of Marines and sailors, sea bees provide engineer support to the troops, and the Medical and Dental Corps still ensure the wellness of our troops.
“There is, of course, much work yet to do and challenges yet to face, but I am convinced that this generation of Sailors, at this critical time in our history, will make all the difference,” Mullen stated.
To honor these sailors and those who have served over the past 230 years, the sailors of Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, participated in the traditional cake cutting ceremony. The honor of cutting the cake went to Col. David K. Hough, Headquarters Battalion’s commanding officer.
“Today, it is my privilege and honor to salute you on your 230th birthday,” Hough said. “Well done and keep up the good work.”
As is tradition, Hough presented the first piece of cake to the oldest sailor present, Cmdr. Robert Puder, born Dec. 27, 1951, signifying the admiration and respect accorded those that now carry the proud heritage of the Navy. The oldest sailor then presented the cake to the youngest sailor present, Seaman Darius Evans, born Feb. 6, 1985, signifying the passing of the heritage to those who follow and will lead the Navy in the future.
That future looks bright for these proud sailors as they continue to push forward in operations in Iraq and around the globe.
“As Capt. Nora Scott Tyson, former commanding officer of the USS Bataan, put it, ‘We know there is a reason for what we do, whether it is the Global War on Terrorism or humanitarian relief. If you are not flexible and you are not ready ... you are in the wrong business,’” said Mullen.
“Well, I have seen it first hand. You are flexible, you are ready and you are definitely in the right business. John Paul Jones and Stephen Decatur have absolutely nothing on you. I am thrilled just to wear the same uniform. Happy Birthday shipmates.”