Men who have served both their community and country gathered in a conference room at the Orange Police Department on Thursday, Nov. 9.
A sheet cake, adorned with a U.S. flag and overlaid with the Marine Corps emblem, was perfectly centered across a table in a conference room.
Scripted in red along the bottom of the cake was the phrase: “Happy Birthday Marines!” A Mameluke sword was on the table, to the left of the cake.
For years now, the Orange PD has invited Marines into the department’s home to celebrate the most sacred day in the life of every Marine, past and present – the Marine Corps’ birthday.
On Nov. 10th, 2017, the United States Marine Corps celebrated its 242nd birthday.
“It’s called brotherhood,” said Sgt. Augie Rocha, an Orange PD officer since 2002 and active-duty Marine from 1991 to 2000.
Rocha organizes the annual event, which was attended by Marines past and present, police officers, firefighters and family members.
“It doesn’t matter if I just met you two seconds ago or have known you for 30 years, if you served in my beloved Marine Corps, you are my brother,” Rocha said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine!”
Like Rocha, some current police officers and firefighters served in the Marines.
“It’s a family,” Rocha said. “To me, it’s an honor to be asked to do this.”
The highlight of the gathering was the cutting of the birthday cake, a ritual steeped in tradition and symbolism.
Following protocol, Cpl. Mark Wayland, a former Marine and retired Orange firefighter, and the second-oldest Marine in the room, used the Mameluke sword to slice a piece of cake, which he handed to the youngest Marine, PFC Brett Murphy, 21, who serves as a Marine recruiter.
This symbolizes the passing of knowledge and experience from old to young.
Murphy then cut a piece of cake and handed it to Wayland, signifying that Marines put the needs of other Marines ahead of their own.
The cake is cut with the Mameluke sword, as a reminder that Marines are a band of warriors, committed to carrying the sword, so that the nation may live in peace.
An annual birthday message delivered by the Marine commandant also is part of the tradition.
The message for 2017, delivered by Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, was played on a video screen.
“Today, as we celebrate our 242nd birthday, we must remember who we are, where we came from, and why we’re here,” Neller said. “We must remember the past, honor those who are no longer with us, focus on today’s battles, and get ready for tomorrow.”
Happy Birthday Marines. Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful.