A massive cake.
A toast with glasses raised high.
A remembrance of those no longer around.
About the only thing missing was the “Happy Birthday” sing-along as Marines from throughout New Hampshire gathered Wednesday in Manchester to celebrate the 246th birthday of their beloved Corps.
The celebration at the Derryfield Country Club drew about 150 Marines and family members.
The crowd included currently serving Marines, beaming, clean-shaven and proudly wearing their dress blues. And it included Marine veterans, some in suit and tie, a few in T-shirts, a few who could easily fit into the uniform they had worn decades earlier.
“It’s just the whole tradition of the Corps,” said Henniker resident Mark Lindsley, who retired as a Marine Corps reservist in 1994 as a master sergeant.
Dressed in full uniform, Lindsley was one of three to escort the cake to the front of the room and serve both the oldest and youngest Marines.
“No matter how small or big an order is, you never give up,” he said about Marines.
The Marines trace their origin to a decree by the Second Continental Congress on Nov. 10, 1775.
Throughout the country, such birthday events are held the day before Veterans Day. The Manchester Expeditionary Brigade puts on the annual event here.
In his remarks, Brigade commander Paul Pouliot recalled the conversation with his father, a veteran Navy sailor, when Pouliot announced he had enlisted in the rival Marines.
“I can’t repeat verbatim what he told me, but he said, ‘Are you eff-ing crazy?’ I said, ‘Dad, it was a prerequisite,’” Pouliot joked.
The ceremony included a presentation of colors, a prayer and recorded music that included “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marines’ Hymn” and taps.
Gold Star Mother Karen Staley read remarks.
“Wars are not won, and freedom not ensured, by the living alone,” she said.
The guest of honor was Jeff Nelson, a retired police officer who is now executive director of Liberty House in Manchester, a homeless shelter for veterans.
Many Marines brought in donations for the Toys for Tots program.
Also on hand were Leathernecks, the motorcycle club made up of Marine veterans. They got caught in the rain on the way to the event, said Barnstead resident Ernie Perkins.
All Marines, whether in motorcycle leathers or dress blues, stood at attention with their chests out, their arms at their side and their fists clenched during the opening ceremonies.
“We come for the camaraderie and to support our brothers,” Perkins said. New Hampshire, he said, reflects Marine Corps values.
“Everybody here is tight as far as community goes, just like the Marine Corps,” he said, “and everybody reaches out to help each other.”