American Legion Post No. 716 hosts luncheon on Marine Corps birthday

Pictured from left are Sergeant-At-Arms/Staff Sgt. Art Odem, carrying a Mameluke Sword, in recognition of the Tripoli Battle; Guest of Honor USMC Cpl. David Marshall, Oldest Marine USMC Major Neil Reich and Youngest Marine Staff Sgt. J. Martin. Photo by Loreen Berlin

By Past USCGA Flotilla Commander John Patrick Doogan and Loreen Berlin

Celebrating the United States Marine’s birthday is an event that’s very close to the hearts of all Marines and there’s much tradition celebrated during the birthday dinner.

This year, the Orange County California Chapter of the First Marine Division Association (OCCCFMDA) held one of the finest celebrations in honor of the Marines.

For many years the OCCCFMDA has hosted the Birthday celebration that is equal-to and surpasses most.

American Legion Post No. 716 Chapter President Sgt. Scott Montoya, began the program with a warm welcome, along with introducing the attending guests, followed by the reading of a letter from the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, who  spoke of the gallant acts of the Marines throughout history; their bravery, integrity and honor, which all Marines rise-to and live-by, at the highest level.

Part of the celebration includes a “Hat Ceremony,” which honors all who have given their lives, while in the service of their Country.

There is representation from all of the five military services, with each representative attired in their individual dress military uniform, who then march forward, carrying the dress hat to be placed on, “The Table of Special Honor,” while the Anthem of their particular military service is played, along with turning an empty wine-glass upside-down and leaning the back of the chair onto the edge of the table, followed by a slow salute. This is a representation of “All who have lost one of their own.”

The cake cutting tradition involves The Oldest U.S. Marine and The Youngest U.S. Marine in attendance, along with the Guest of Honor.

The Marines march forward, with the cake, while the Sergeant-At-Arms (SAA) carries a special Mameluke Sword (in recognition of the Tripoli Battle – a first on foreign soil), as a reminder that they are a band of warriors.

This year’s Guest of Honor was USMC Cpl. David Marshall, a “Chapter member” of OCCCFMDA who has also served many times as its president.

The first piece of cake, cut by the SAA, is presented to the Guest of Honor; the second piece of cake is presented to the Oldest Marine, who then (symbolically this year because of COVID-19 precautions) passes the piece of cake to the Youngest Marine, signifying the passing of experience and knowledge from the oldest to the youngest in the U.S. Marine Corps – a time-honored celebration of Marine Corps Traditions.

Chapter President U.S. Marine Sgt. Scott Montoya is a Navy Cross recipient, which is the Nation’s second-highest award for bravery in combat.  Sgt. Montoya is also currently under review for the “Congressional Medal of Honor.”

His chapter and friends wish him all the best while under review during the sacred process.

In the battle for Baghdad, under heavy enemy fire, Sgt. Scott Montoya saved the lives of three wounded Marines; carrying one of them to safety on his shoulders. Additionally, during the fire-fight Sgt. Montoya returned to carry two other wounded Marines to safety.

In addition, there was a vehicle caught in the middle of the road where the driver was shot and killed.  It was in that line-of-fire that Sgt. Montoya also pulled two civilians to safety from their car.

Mr. Doogan said, “I’m so proud to have served under the U.S. Marine Command and to be able to call the members of the OCCCFMDA my friends.”