Press Releases

‘Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fidelis,’ Youngest Marine helps celebrates 248 years of tradition
5 Dec 2023

Every year, around the world, all U.S. Marines currently serving, as well as those who have hung up their uniform for the last time, come together to celebrate the founding of their Corps. The Marine Corps Birthday is a time to honor the bloodline of Marines who have come and gone. As well as, celebrate the achievements made over the last two and a half centuries.

U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)), aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) commemorated the occasion with a traditional cake-cutting ceremony in the Mediterranean Sea, on Nov. 10, 2023, marking 248 years of tradition.

A key ritual of the cake-cutting ceremony is the passing of the cake from the oldest Marine to the youngest, symbolizing generations of knowledge being shared to the future of the Corps. The youngest Marine in the event was 19 year old U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Austin Bradley, a motor transport operator assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 22, 26th MEU(SOC). Bradley’s Marine experience began when he enlisted and left for boot camp in July of 2022 and checked into CLB-22 in March 2023.

“I wanted to join the military, specifically the Marine Corps, because it was a stepping stone to what I wanted to do,” said Bradley, a Tampa, Florida native and a graduate of River View High School. “I looked at all the branches, and talked to everybody, but the Marines stood out like a challenge, which is really why I chose to take this path.”

Though his time in the Marines has been short, with only being in for a little over a year, Bradley was able to gain meaningful experience while being deployed as a motor transport operator under the 26th MEU(SOC).

“What I like about being a Marine so far is the camaraderie between Marines. It is like nothing I have experienced before,” Bradley said. “I played sports and been on teams. The interactions made, whether they were from a staff sergeant who has 13 years on you or your peer at boot camp, it’s all the same. Everyone is a Marine, everyone is a ‘Devil Dog,’ it’s all love, always fun, always funny and it’s a great time.”

During the pre-deployment training program and while deployed aboard the USS Mesa Verde, he has supported key exercises with NATO Allies and Partners, loading and offloading key personnel, vehicles and critical equipment.

“Everything aligned and I lucked out when I checked into my unit and my leadership went from saying you might get to go on deployment, to a month later saying, yeah, you’re going, get packed,” Bradley said. “This is my first deployment, and so far has been an amazing experience, being able to see places I never thought I’d be able to in my life, places I have dreamed of going to, and will now become memorable experiences from traveling the world on the Mesa Verde.”

The USS Mesa Verde, assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and embarked 26th MEU(SOC), under the command and control of Task Force 61/2, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., Allies, and partner interests.

Bradley happily expressed this was his first time experiencing the Marine Corps Birthday in the fleet, not only attending a cake cutting, but also being in the ceremony itself.

“It was amazing,” he said. “This time, I was able to experience being at one of these events, having fun, and having that sense of pride and belonging. Today is the day everyone was full of pride for being a United States Marine. To everyone, I say Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fidelis!”