CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- -- The Marines, Sailors and Soldiers aboard Camp Fallujah celebrated the Navy’s 229th birthday Oct. 13th.
“Birthdays are traditional milestones that in time calls for us to reflect on the past, but to also look toward the future,” said Rear Adm. Raymond K. Alexander, the Commanding Officer of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group at the celebration. “With today’s Navy birthday there’s no difference. Today, the United States Navy stands alone, unmatched in the world.”
The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775 by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.
Master Chief Raphael Sanchez, Command Master Chief of I MEF, commented on the birthday’s history and tradition. “As we celebrate 229 years of service to our Nation, the Navy Birthday allows for all I MEF to pause for a moment and reflect on the history, customs and sea service traditions,” he said. “For those that are new to the Navy, it is an opportunity for the ‘old salts’ to pass on our ‘pride of service’ and to share some ‘sea stories.’”
The birthday ceremony included distinguished guest Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, Commanding General of I MEF and the guest of honor Rear Adm. Raymond K. Alexander, the Commanding Officer of First Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group
During the ceremony, the youngest Sailor, Hospitalman Bryan S. Eshkenazi, 18, a corpsman with 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion, cut the cake with the oldest Sailor, Chief Petty Officer Andy Sprague, 56, of I MEG. In keeping with the Navy tradition, the oldest Sailor passed a piece of birthday cake to the youngest Sailor symbolizing the sharing of wisdom and experience.
“I never knew the Navy did a ceremony like this, but being out here in Iraq and being a part of this ceremony is something I’m definitely going to remember,” HN Eshkenazi said. “It felt weird to be the youngest in a room full of Sailors.”
A bell tolling ceremony was held in honor and remembrance of Sailors who have sailed and fought throughout the world and for those who lost their lives.
Even though the Sailors celebrated their 229th birthday in another country, not much of the birthday ball traditions have changed.
“This is the kind of place we should celebrate the Navy birthday, because we’re out here doing what our nation needs us to do,” Alexander said. “We’re out here with the Navy-Marine Corps team defending our freedom. What better place to celebrate the 229th birthday?”
Although the Sailors were attending this year’s Navy birthday overseas away from family members, they are still surrounding by their military family, said Alexander.
In 1972 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of 13 October as the Navy’s birthday. In contrast to Navy Day, the Navy Birthday is intended as an internal activity for members of the active forces and reserves, as well as retirees, and dependents. Since 1972 each CNO has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion "to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service."