The Marine Corps birthday is an important celebration for all Marines.  Every year, on the tenth of November, men, and women of my ilk take a step back from the everyday lives that have developed in wake of our exit from service, and we raise a glass alongside our active duty brothers and sisters.  Of course, like most celebrations that give us cause to look back over the passage of time, the Marine Corps birthday tends to carry with it a solemn sense of loss and responsibility.  It can be difficult to celebrate your scarlet and gold heritage without hurting a little over those who aren’t here to celebrate with us.

On the Marine Corps birthday, no Marine drinks alone and as we raise our glasses, surrounded by friends or the silence of an empty home, we raise them together. We’re honoring those who came before us, remembering those we lost, and of course, celebrating the commitment of the latest generation of Devil Dogs, carrying the torch into a new era of warfighting.

In my house, the Marine Corps birthday carries a darker cloud of remembrance.  Two years ago this morning, my wife and I got up early in the basement guest room of my mother in law’s home, tiptoed up the stairs to check on her, only to find her loving husband sitting quietly at the end of her hospital bed we had positioned in the living room to help share to the responsibility of her care. She passed away, quietly and peacefully in her sleep early that morning with her husband by her side.

Jan was an incredible woman.  I met her as a nerdy 6th grader with a crush on her older and much cooler daughter.  My family didn’t have much money, but Jan would pay me a crisp twenty-dollar bill to skim their pool.  I was overpaid for an easy job and if I was lucky, I might get to spend a few minutes awkwardly trying to make conversation with her daughter.  It was a winning lottery ticket of a gig.  I still remember the day Jan came outside with a glass of lemonade for me and blurted out, “you two are gonna be married one day, I just know it!”