On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress established the Marines. The corps grew from just under 400 enlisted in its first 30 years in existence to now more than 200,000 enlisted men and women. On November 1, 1921 Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune issued Marine Order 47 declaring November 10th as a Marine Holiday and that the order be read aloud that day and each year thereafter.  In part, the order reads:

“This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.”

Celebrations  occurred throughout the weekend along with the fabled “Marine Corps Birthday Ball” that is held annually on or about November 10 on both a national and local level for servicemen and veterans (there really are no ex-Marines).

Often referred to as the “First To Fight”, the United States Marine Corps is the only branch of the armed services that is forward deployed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year as a complete unit capable of sustaining war all by itself for about a month.

These Marine units are not simply on standby but are spread out throughout the world’s hot spots ready for action. No other branch can make this claim. So when a crisis erupts anywhere in the world, the first responders will most likely be these units aboard their ships.

Many times just their mere presence acts as a deterrent.

General J. F. Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a birthday greeting to his troops this weekend and it seems fitting for the world to hear his words as well:

“In his birthday greeting 70 years ago, General Alexander Vandegrift, our 18th Commandant noted that, “A Birthday is a fitting time to peer backward – and forward.” That year, Marines reflected on an extraordinary year in combat during their amphibious drive across the Pacific. Despite the challenges and the horrific conditions, Marines prevailed at Guam, Saipan, and Peleliu. On 10 November 1944, Marines looked back with pride on their accomplishment – confident in their ability to meet future challenges.

In 2004, 20,000 Marines deployed to Al Anbar Province, Iraq – many Marines celebrated the birthday in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, and Al Qaim while decisively engaged in combat. That year, Marines also responded to crisis in the Pacific following a tsunami which claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people. On 10 November 2004, Marines looked back with pride on their accomplishments – confident in their ability to meet future challenges.

As we celebrate our 239th birthday, Marines are in combat in Afghanistan. Since we last gathered to celebrate our Corps’ birthday, we also responded to crises in the Philippines, South Sudan, Libya, and Iraq.

Some things change. This year found us in different climes and places that our predecessors in 1944 and 2004. We have adapted our organization, training, and equipment to the ever-changing operating environment. Some things remain the same. Marines attacked this year’s challenges with the same courage, commitment, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and adaptability as their predecessors in Peleliu and Fallujah. For that reason, on 10 November 2014, we Marines can look back with pride on our accomplishments- confident in our ability to meet future challenges.

Thanks for who you are and what you do. Happy Birthday Marines.

Semper Fidelis,

J. F. Dunford, Jr.

General, U.S. Marine Corps

Commandant of the Marine Corps

In a more somber tradition, Samuel Nicholas’s grave in the Arch Street Friends Meeting graveyard in Philadelphia is marked with a wreath at dawn by a group of Marines annually on November 10th to celebrate his role in the founding of the Corps.