Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island got a brief respite Tuesday afternoon from the rigors of boot camp to celebrate the 234th birthday of the Marine Corps.
More than 300 Marines, recruits, veterans and local leaders packed into the depot's All-Weather Training Facility for the annual birthday pageant and cake-cutting ceremony. It was in 1775 that the Continental Congress passed a resolution to create two battalions of Marines to fight the British.
"One of the reasons we celebrate this day is to remember those that have gone before us," said Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla, commanding general of Parris Island. "Each generation of Marines takes that history and puts their own mark on it."
The Corps began celebrating its birthday in 1921 when then-Commandant Gen. John Lejeune ordered Marines everywhere to pause Nov. 10 to celebrate "the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious past."
In keeping with Lejeune's order, 16 Parris Island Marines marched one by one Tuesday across the concrete floor, each wearing a period uniform spanning the Corps' history.
Sgt. Terrance Bowens, a Columbia native, was selected to tote a musket and sport the green overcoat and cream-colored trousers worn by the first Continental Marines during the Revolutionary War.
"I had never even been to a pageant before, so it feels good to have been selected to wear this uniform," Bowens said. "I'm very honored to have been able to play such a big part in this ceremony."
In part, the honor is bestowed upon Marines who can fit into the uniforms.
Recruits halted Tuesday for the hour-long ceremony, said Staff Sgt. Tracie Kessler, depot spokesman.
The pageant helps bring to life the storied history the recruits became a part of when they enlisted.
"It's great because this pageant and seeing those uniforms reinforces that this is what being a Marine is all about," Kessler said.
The Marine Corps has been a part of the Lowcountry since June 1891 when a small security force was assigned to U.S. Naval Station Port Royal, a base on Parris Island. The Corps officially opened a recruit depot on Parris Island in 1915.
The Beaufort area also is home to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, commissioned on June 15, 1943 as Naval Air Station Beaufort for advanced training operations of anti-submarine patrols during World War II. It was then deactivated in 1946 and reactivated in 1956. On March 1, 1960, it was re-designated Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
Padilla said the Marine Corps values its relationship with local leaders and the Beaufort community.
"This is a relationship that goes back to the early 1900s, so for half of our existence as a Corps, we've had a relationship with the Lowcountry," Padilla said. "That bond is as strong as ever."