On Nov. 10, 1775, the Continental Congress formed two battalions of Continental Marines.
Since 1921, it has been a Marine custom to celebrate that date as the Marine Corps birthday.
The Marine Corps League Antietam Detachment honored that tradition Saturday with a ceremony celebrating the Marine Corps' 236th birthday at AMVETS on Frederick Street in Hagerstown. About 80 people participated in the observance.
Retired Marine Maj. Stewart Hickey was the featured speaker. Hickey said though Marines have served in far-flung sites including Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Korea and beyond, they always honor the birthday of the corps.
"It may be with a pound cake out of a sea rat, but we always celebrate," he said. "Happy 236th birthday."
The Marines responded with a robust, "Oorah!"
Each of Hickey's three sons joined the Marine Corps following high school, he said. One currently is serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. During his remarks, Hickey urged league members to consider future Marine Corps veterans. He said possible budget cuts by Congress threaten the security of the Marines Corps.
"Everyone wants the government to quit wasting money, but they are looking to the Department of Defense to foot the bill for social programs. They don't want to cut those, but they want to cut military spending," he said.
Hickey quoted projected reductions and said he sees Congress as a bigger threat to the U.S. military than the Taliban.
"Congress can do away with more United States Marines than the Taliban ever will," he said.
The Marine Corps League is an association of active and former Marines. In keeping with Marine custom, the detachment presented the first and second pieces of birthday cake to the oldest and youngest Marines present.
Jim Warner, 70, of Rohrersville, received the first piece. Warner was a prisoner of war with John McCain during the Vietnam War. Warner said the traditional birthday celebrations serve as an opportunity to spend time with fellow Marines.
"You develop a bond with these guys. This is for nostalgia, to come here and talk to these guys," Warner said.
He also noted the importance of honoring the Marines who are serving now.
"I know people who laugh when I say this, but I'm not sure we would measure up. These kids are smart. They do their jobs really well," he said.
Bradley Hott, 39, of Hagerstown, served from 1990 to 1995 and was honored as the youngest Marine present. Hott said he was pleased to be part of a "party to honor the heritage of the Marine Corps."
Hickey commended the Marine Corps League for observing the birthday tradition.
"These are the just the village elders of the Marine Corps tribe. They keep the tradition going," Hickey said. "One day these younger guys will be sitting here. That's the way the Marine Corps has always been. Someone will be there to fill in the breach."