COMBAT OUTPOST NUKHAYB, Iraq --
The Marine Corps birthday, no matter where it's celebrated, commemorates the flourishing history of the Marine Corps, stemming from the first days of its establishment in Philadelphia, Pa., as two battalions of Continental Marines, to more recent days when more than 200,000 men and women uphold a stern reputation of excellence. Each year in the nooks and crannies of war-stricken lands, the Marines' Hymn bellows from the largest venues of thousands to the smallest wooden shacks holding a few tightly knit brethren.
Border Transition Team 4210 ensured the celebration encompassed every traditional element of the occasion on field provisions. With a few crumbs of chocolate cake and the high spirits of dedicated men, they made a life-lasting memory of their birthday at Combat Outpost Nukhayb, Iraq, Nov. 13-14, 2009.
Traditionally held on Nov. 10, their birthday celebration fell to the wayside due to operational requirements. After settling their obligations to the mission, they spared two evenings, to accommodate work schedules, for everyone to enjoy the annual festivities. Maj. Christopher McGuire, an infantry officer with BTT-4210, shared his insights, personal struggles and subsequent reinvigoration with the assembly as the guest of honor.
"To be honest with you, my motivation level has been the lowest in the past six months, and that's probably for a variety of reasons," McGuire explained. "For a lot of reasons I've been at a low point, and for the first time in my 10 1/2 years in the Marine Corps, I thought about getting out."
McGuire discussed several regrets including his unit transfer from commanding officer, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, to BTT-4210. The men of 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, have sustained casualties since their deployment to Afghanistan, and McGuire still holds a devout sense of duty toward their well-being that he physically cannot fulfill. He also missed the birth of his second son. Through his time with BTT-4210, his regrets dwindled and he found a new family within the team that took time to acknowledge.
"Since I came to [Advisor Training Group], trained and deployed with you Marines, I realized I can't get out of the Marine Corps - I can't do it," McGuire emphasized. "Although I'm extremely patriotic, it doesn't have anything to do with the American flag or apple pie. It has everything to do with the guys in this room."
With McGuire's speech and the traditional passing of Marine Corps birthday cake from the oldest to the youngest Marine present, the ceremony ended and the party began. With two beers for each Marine, they gathered around a fire pit and stoked a blaze, while sharing memories of their years as Marines.
"Every little thing that does happen, even if you don't have a big event to celebrate it, brings up the morale," mentioned Staff Sgt. James Atkinson, the maintenance chief with BTT-4210. "It's time to relax and get to know each other."
As the night wore on, everyone retired to their respective living quarters for the evening. The next morning they began the rest of their service in the remote corner of Iraq, and in one year they will surely have new stories to share with family and friends as the legacy of the Marine Corps continues.