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Marines celebrate birthday military-style

Commanding Officer Sgt. Dale Erickson of Esko cut the first three pieces of the cake with a long sword as Leslie and others looked on. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 3
Master Sgt. Ron Leslie (from left), Sgt. Dave Larila and Corp. Roger Tillman escort a large birthday cake down the center aisle at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hebert Kennedy Post 3979 during Saturday’s Marine Corps 240th Birthday Ball in Cloquet. 2 / 3
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Want to cut a birthday cake like a Marine?

Then you’d better have a sword.

This year, Sgt. Dale Erickson did the honors, as the commanding officer at Saturday’s United States Marine Corps 240th Birthday Ball, celebrated across the country but locally at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hebert Kennedy Post 3979 in Cloquet.

Erickson, an Esko resident who served with the B-Company Marines in Korea, cut three pieces of cake with his sword.

As is the Marine custom, the first piece went to the guest of honor, in this case, State Sen. Tony Lourey, who spoke at Saturday’s event. The second piece of cake was given to the oldest Marine in attendance, Sgt. Jerry Couture, who then passed the cake to the youngest Marine there, 1stSgt. Kim Murphy, symbolizing the passing on of the wisdom of the elders. The third piece of cake was then given again to Couture.

Emcee and organizer GySgt. Richard Chassé led the crowd of close to 25 veterans and friends and family in a series of toasts to the various branches of the military, with a hearty “Hoo-rah” as they raised their glasses each time.

In his speech, Sen. Lourey told the crowd that he and the rest of the country thank the Marines from “the bottom of our hearts.”

“You volunteered to fight for your country, to be the tip of the spear,” he told the group, which included veterans of many wars and military actions. He also told them of the different actions taken and being considered by the state legislature, including free hunting licenses for residents of the state’s veterans homes, $6 million for preservation of armories across the state and the ongoing search for a site for a military cemetery in this part of the state.

After a dinner of prime rib, chicken or vegetarian lasagna and, of course, cake for dessert, the group finished its birthday celebration with a dance and parted ways until next year’s birthday celebration.