By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel commemorated the Marine Corps` 238th birthday here today by praising the legacy of one of the world`s oldest, and most admired and respected fighting forces " and vowing to work to keep it strong for the future.
Whenever our nation has called, the Marines have been ready, " Hagel said during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
That`s been especially true during the past 12 years, " he said, noting the more than 7,000 Marines currently serving in Afghanistan`s Helmand province. There, Hagel said, they are doing what they do best: showing the Afghan people they have no better friend, and showing our adversaries they have no deadlier enemy, than a Marine. "
The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution establishing the Continental Marines on Nov. 10, 1775. Since then, the Marine Corps has served in every U.S. armed conflict around the world.
Those in harm`s way today reflect the Marine Corps` long legacy of heroism, Hagel said. He noted just a few examples of that service and sacrifice: 70 years ago this month during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, in Tarawa; 45 years ago during the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam; and 30 years ago during the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.
For 238 years, the Marines have made a vital difference, " Hagel said. And in today`s volatile, complicated and unpredictable world, the Marines are as relevant and essential as ever before. For there is no force that can match their agility, flexibility, and expeditionary capabilities. "
Hagel said he looks forward to continuing to work with Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, and Gen. John M. Paxton, Jr., the deputy commandant, to build on that legacy for the future.
Together with every member of the Corps, they will strive to ensure that they are strong and ready " as they make a strategic transition back to their amphibious roots, he said.
Our nation owes the entire Marine Corps a great debt of gratitude for all they have done to ensure our security for more than two centuries, and all they will continue to do long into the future, " Hagel said.
(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)
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