At 246, the Marines celebrate another birthday and centuries of service. OO-RAH! 

  • Marines assemble for the celebration of the 246th birthday of United States Marine Corp at the State House on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Nam Knights member Paul Mason (left) greets his friend, Lakes Region Marine Corps League Commandant Bob Patenaude, as they assemble for the celebration of the 246th birthday of United States Marine Corp at the State House on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Lakes Region Marine Corps League Commandant Bob Patenaude looks up at the flag at the celebration of the 246th birthday of United States Marine Corp at the State House on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Retire Marine Lt. Col. Kevin Sullivan reads the 1921 formal recognition letter that General John Lejeune wrote during the 246th birthday of the United States Marine celebration at the State House on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Marines assemble for a photo after the celebration of the 246th birthday of United States Marine Corp at the State House on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Lakes Region Marine Corps League member Ryan Connor looks up at the flag at the celebration of the 246th birthday of United States Marine Corp at the State House.

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/10/2021 3:52:57 PM

Happy 246th birthday, United States Marine Corps.

You’ve earned your special day, held each year on Nov. 10. This year’s tribute occurred on Wednesday, the day before Veterans Day, at the plaza in front of the State House steps.

The birthday has been celebrated since 1921, when Marine Corps General John Lejeune introduced it as a worthy annual endeavor. It stuck, nationwide.

Marine bases and facilities across the country held similar events Wednesday.

“Since that day, the Marines have distinguished themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Sullivan of Boscawen, reciting Lejeune’s speech from 1921. “In memory of them, it is fitting that we as Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.”

He spoke at a microphone on a wet morning. All the pieces to this courageous puzzle were there. The Color Guard, marching in place before the start, polishing its skills to remain in sync.

Rows of Marines, active and retired, lined up near the statue of Daniel Webster shortly before the 8 a.m. start, each blending as one in full dress uniform: blue jacket, white cap, white gloves, blue pants with red stripe on the outside, lots of medals, lots of pride.

At 8 a.m. sharp, the Marine flag was raised on a pole planted high on the State House roof, the American flag on the other side framing the dome. That’s the tradition. The flag will be lowered on Friday.

John Jenkins of Raymond coordinated media coverage. He’s the commandant at the Department of New Hampshire Marine Corps League. The organization helps veterans, doing things like building home elevators for those who can't walk.

Jenkins served in Vietnam. Once home, he had trouble adjusting to an unwelcoming nation. He says working for the League has helped.

“I internalized everything,” Jenkins said, “and it took me almost 40 years to the find Marines Corps League, and now I’m blossoming and living up to being a Marine.”

The birthday ensures that the Marines will be thanked, appreciation shown. Especially by bikers, like those from the Leathernecks of New Hampshire. They lined up behind the Marines during the ceremony, having served in Vietnam and other areas of the world.

Sullivan has seen it all. He had a walrus-like mustache. He wore colored ribbons, lots of them, on the left side of his chest, a kaleidoscope of success under fire.

“If you’re going to be a bear,” Sullivan said, “you might as well be a grizzly, so I enlisted in the Marines Corps.”

He served in Vietnam in 1969 and ‘70, two of the bloodiest years of the war. He paused when asked to remember something, anything that might interest readers, growing emotional before downplaying his significance.

“I was just an infantry platoon leader,” Sullivan said, after regaining his composure. “I did a lot of walking.”

He served in Okinawa, worked in NATO operations, then served during Desert Shield in Iraq. A native of Long Island, N.Y., he was working as a county emergency service police officer in Nassau County on Sept. 11, 2001.

He rushed to Ground Zero to remove rubble, searching for survivors for 12 days before the operation changed, from rescue to recovery. He suffered no lung damage.

Sullivan moved to Boscawen to follow his kids, who had chosen New Hampshire and other New England states to attend college. His son is a Marine too.

“So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines are equal to every emergency in the future,” Sullivan told the gathering.

He mentioned dangerous hotspots around the world, places in which Marines have died, “From Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima to Inchon to the Korean armistice, interventions with Lebanon to the Dominican Republic, and to the opening battles of Vietnam.”

The Battle of Iwo Jima has always stood out, thanks to Joe Rosenthal’s photo that showed Marines, still about a month from securing the island from the Japanese, straining to jab a hunk of pipe, American flag on top, into the ground.

In the end, about 7,000 Marines lost their lives on that island. More than 18,000 Japanese died in the fighting.

That’s just one reason why this birthday needs recognition. It’s why everyone sang the “Marine’s Hymn” in unison near the end of the ceremony, why a brass instrumental of “Anchors Aweigh” blasted from the speakers, and why the Marine flag was hoisted up the pole, followed by a thundering “OO-RAH!

 “I  guess it’s the spirit that carried them through at Iwo, that carries us all through,” Sullivan said. “There’s a long history of that involved here.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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