November 10th is the Marine Corps birthday and this year Marines will celebrate their 236th birthday. Around the world, wherever there is an active duty or former Marine, this birthday will be noted and celebrated. My most memorable one was in the early 1970’s while stationed in Okinawa. There weren’t many of us, but on that day, we gathered together to mark the occasion. There weren’t many Women Marines stationed there and even fewer Women Marine Officers. As a First Lieutenant, I was selected with three other Marines to escort the cake into the room on a cart . I was honored to be selected and appreciative of the opportunity.
Unbeknownst to us, we were near the end of the disastrous Vietnam War where tragedy and pain was only a small distance away. Camp Hague was the site chosen for Marines being deployed from Vietnam back to the US, back home. They would come to the club and sit for hours nursing a drink, never saying a word and just stare and all too often they stared without seeing. Those of us stationed at various Okinawa bases met there to party and let loose. It was hard for me to ignore the pain that seemed to radiate from these men with wounds from which there flowed no blood. It was their spirit and souls which had suffered and would take years to heal. That war left us all battered but not bowed. We were still Marines and for that we could be proud.
Today, we honor all veterans who have fought particularly those who died and they are legion. Those young men and women from all wars who struggled to do their best to protect the way of life we enjoy now ultimately giving all for us. I remember one Marine, Ken Kozai, who flew helicopters. We were the best of friends and his flair for life was contagious to all who met him. He flew helicopters and was ordered back to Vietnam since they needed his skills. It wasn’t many weeks before the news was heard that he had died in a crash caused by friendly fire. I still remember him and his outrageous, huge Cadillac that he adored. He and his zest for life were gone. It left a hole in all of us who knew him. His name is on the wall in Washington. They still volunteer, they still fight, they still serve, they still die. God bless them all.