Kentucky Marines Celebrate 237th Anniversary of Marine Corps in Both Unique and Traditional Fashions at Bourbon Breakfast and Multiple Balls

237th USMC Anniversary Celebrations 2012

Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; November 9-10, 2012:  Marines throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky gathered together to commemorate the 237th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps. The traditions and customs of the Marine Corps in many ways define the Corps and set it apart from other military organizations. These rich traditions give life to our espirit de corps and are the reason we take time to remember and honor our past. It is always fitting to recall the significance of the 10th of November each year.

On that date in 1775, the Continental Congress resolved that “…two battalions of Marines be raised…” to participate in the war against Great Britain.  Celebrations throughout Kentucky began once again at a sunrise breakfast on November 9 at the Thoroughbred Club of America, Lexington, presided over for the 22nd consecutive year by Mr. James E. (Ted) Bassett III, Chairman, Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Kentucky, as the Centennial of Marine Aviation was observed. Guest of Honor was a Marine aviator, Colonel Arthur M. (Mac) Reynolds, USMC (Ret), a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Kentucky, whose outstanding career included years of service both as a Presidential Helicopter Pilot and Commanding Officer of Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), during which he piloted Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, and George W. Bush, both within the United States and abroad. Also honored at this breakfast were the memories of LtGen Field Harris, USMC, a Marine aviator from Versailles, Kentucky, who during World War II commanded the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at the Battle of Guadalcanal, while his son, Will Harris, a Marine Corps infantry officer, was enduring unthinkable suffering in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. In the recent best selling book "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption," Will Harris, a Naval Academy graduate, is remembered and lauded for his leadership role as a prisoner of war and later for his heroism at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, for which he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. (See "Legends" section for history of both Field Harris and Will Harris).

Present at the Birthday Breakfast was Ms Katherine Harris Meares, the daughter of LtCol Will Harris; grand daughter of LtGen Field Harris; and great grand daughter of MajGen Commandant John A. LeJeune, under whose legendary leadership our annual celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday was instituted in 1921. Special recognition was afforded Mr. Clarence Hunt of Louisville, who having trained in the segregated Camp Montford Point, North Carolina during 1943, was honored this past summer with a Congressional Gold Medal. As an 18 year old youth, Mr. Hunt enlisted in a segregated Marine Corps and served his nation honorably during 1943-1946. Festivities concluded with a traditional toast of Kentucky (Bulleit) Bourbon and the playing of The Marines Hymn.  Separate more formal celebrations were held at Lexington (Clarion Hotel) and Louisville (Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel), as Marines of Military Police Company "A" (Lexington), Tank Company "E" (Fort Knox), and Recruiting Station Louisville gathered together for traditional cake cutting ceremonies on November 10 at Birthday Balls. Mr. Joseph Lane, a Marine Corps veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima (World War II) and Mr. Thomas Cork, an original Montford Point Marine, who landed at Inchon (Korean War) with a Marine rifle company and later fought at the Chosin Reservoir, where he lost his toes to frostbite, were Guests of Honor at the Lexington and Louisville events respectively.

Over 300 people attended the Lexington area Birthday Ball, while over 400 people attended the Louisville area event. In the true spirit of "Once a Marine, Always a Marine," active duty, reserve, and veteran Marines came together on this special day to honor their common heritage, with respect for each other and their service to our Corps, while remembering those who are no longer with us, but served their nation well.

(Photograph by Ed Armento. Additional photos in "Galleries" section, courtesy of 1stSgt Martin G. Hanse, Jr., USMC (Ret); Jennifer Armento, MCCCK Webmaster;  Kevin Hinchman, Keeneland Association, Inc.; Marine Corps Reserve Military Police Company A, Lexington, Kentucky; and Ed Armento, MCCCK Secretary)