MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Station sailors and their guests, including Col. James J. Cooney, station commanding officer, recognized the 227th birthday of the United States Navy in a cake-cutting ceremony Friday at the station parade deck.
The Continental Congress of the 13 colonies that would become the first United States of America established on Oct. 13, 1775 that two armed vessels should be commissioned to search for British munitions supply ships, marking the beginnings of the Continental Navy.
Throughout the War for Independence, the men of the Continental Navy sailed aboard more than 50 vessels and captured almost 200 British vessels in standing up to what was considered at the time to be the world's greatest fleet. Though the Department of the Navy wasn't officially established by the fledgling nation's Congress until April 30, 1798, the Navy recognizes October 13 as its birthday for the tradition of maritime strength displayed during the Revolutionary War, and it is a matter of pride for today's sailors to pay commemoration to the landmark event.
"Celebrating the Navy birthday means recognizing the beginnings of a military tradition," said Navy Lt. Renee Woodworth, clinical coordinator at Yuma Branch Medical Clinic, who served as the master of ceremonies for the morning celebration.
A Navy color guard raised the national colors an honor usually reserved aboard the air station for Marines from the provost marshal's office to kick off the ceremony. After the invocation and prayer from Chaplain (Cmdr.) James Gay and a few gracious words from Cooney, Woodworth read statements from the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark, and the Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England.
"Your magnificent performance during Operation Enduring Freedom honors the legacy of naval heroes who for 227 years have sacrificed so much to make America great and ensure the survival of liberty," England said in his statement.
The climax of the event for those in attendance was the appearance of Navy instructors from the Military Freefall School at Yuma Proving Grounds. One step and 5,000 feet later, the parachutists were safely aground on the station parade deck after soaring in the sky above the air station.
"It's a great time to be in the Navy and a great time to be jumping," said Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Hatch, a freefall instructor at YPG, who was flying the Navy Jack flag on his jumpsuit as he floated to the earth. "It's always great to get out in public and show them what we do, and especially on the Navy birthday."
The Navy and Marine Corps team aboard the air station was integral in organizing the celebration, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Ken Crouch, BMC senior enlisted leader.
"It's an honor to serve alongside these sailors and Marines here," Crouch said. "There's a sacred trust with Marines that we can provide for their medical needs."
The birthday celebration was an event that caused station sailors' chests to swell with the spirit of their commitment to America's military.
"The strongest characteristic of the Navy, for me, is the pride I feel to serve on this team," said Crouch, who has served 10 of his 18 years with the Fleet Marine Force. "We wear this uniform because we choose to; others don't and we're here to protect that choice."
The birthday ceremony provided the perfect opportunity for one sailor to receive recognition for her performance and another sailor to renew his pact to serve the Navy. Lieutenant Jennifer Huck, outgoing clinical coordinator at BMC, received the Navy Commendation Medal earned for her efforts in making the appointment process at the clinic more efficient.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Gerdes, a corpsman with Search and Rescue, was sworn in by Woodworth as he reenlisted for another four-year term in the Navy.
"The opportunity to reenlist at the cake-cutting ceremony fell in just perfect," said Gerdes, who indicated that he's making the Navy his career after more than nine years of service. "It's great anytime you can show support for a great institution and be able to share your reenlistment with everyone who came to the ceremony."
To conclude the morning's events, Lt. Cmdr. Jack Frost, officer-in-charge of BMC, the oldest sailor present, and Seaman Lydia Eddington, hospital corpsman with BMC, the youngest sailor on station, cut a cake and gave each other a piece, signifying the passing on of naval traditions.