MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
The Young Marines of Eastern North Carolina celebrated the 48th annual birthday of the Young Marines at the Paradise Point Officers’ Club aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Oct. 19.
The Young Marines from 1st and 2nd Battalion celebrated the long lived birthday tradition with a color guard, honor guard and cake cutting ceremony.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Mackey, guest of honor for the ceremony, said he began work with the Young Marines program in 1985.
“My commander at the time tasked us with teaching the young children the values of being a Marine,” said Mackey. “After leaving Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, I came to the East Coast and helped start the Marine Corps Air Station New River Young Marines unit while stationed here.”
Mackey added, once he was transferred to Baton Rouge, La., he took the lead starting a Young Marines unit for the area.
“Years down the road, when I was a gunnery sergeant in Afghanistan, I had a captain approach me and ask if I remembered him,” said Mackey. “He told me I was his platoon commander in the Young Marines. It’s humbling to know so many of my Young Marines went on to serve in uniform, I stopped counting at 45.”
Young Marine Staff Sgt. Kyle Byrd, a member of the Jacksonville Young Marines unit, said the birthday allows the Young Marines to break away from the discipline and act like children in a fun but formal setting.
“It lets them enjoy what the Young Marines is about,” said Byrd. “The Young Marines can carry you as far as you want in life, so make the most out of it and have fun when the opportunities are there.”
Byrd received recognition during the birthday ball for winning the battalion’s Young Marine of the Year award.
Young Marine Gunnery Sgt. Alexandria Cline, a member of the Camp Lejeune Young Marines, said she greatly enjoys the birthday ball, because it allows the older children to meet with the new Young Marines and inspire them.
“I tell the children new to the program that its hard to go through the Young Marine boot camp,” said Cline. “In the end, the benefit is far greater than the struggle to achieve it.”
For more information on the Young Marines or a local unit, visit www.youngmarines.com.
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