Remarks at a White House Ceremony Celebrating the 207th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps

November 10, 1982

General Barrow, when we think of the Marine Corps, the thought of a piece of cake doesn't exactly come to mind, but I'll enjoy this one, as I say, a little later.

I know that marines pride themselves on being gung-ho. I also know that it's a great risk in talking to any group to try to tell an anecdote or story that has to do with their particular calling. But I'm going to do that even at the risk that you probably already know it. It has to do with that gung-ho spirit.

There was a marine detachment that was sent to an army base to undergo some airborne training. A young lieutenant was explaining this all to them, what was expected, and then said that the plane would come over at about 800 feet. They would jump; they would then assemble and rendezvous with other forces in the area. And when he finished, the marines there went into a kind of huddle. And pretty soon several of them as spokesmen approached the lieutenant, and they said, ``Lieutenant, could the plane maybe come over a little lower, say, at about 500 feet?'' Well, he explained that, no, it couldn't, because the parachutes wouldn't have time to open. Well, they said, ``Oh, we're wearing parachutes?''

I think you have heard it. [Laughter] But anyway, seriously, I have great regard for the part that I am allowed to play here in the 207th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

Since the beginning of the corps, at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, on November 10th, 1775, the term ``marine'' has been associated with courage, military efficiency, and soldierly virtue. You have established a reputation of being the first to fight, and you did it in the old-fashioned way -- you earned it. For 207 years, you've been there whenever and wherever our country needed you. From the rigging of ships during the American Revolution, to the brutal island battlefields in the Pacific in the Second World War, to the swamps and the rice paddies of Vietnam, you have never failed your country.

And today as we celebrate, your fellow marines are standing watch in Beirut as part of a multinational force that is carrying out this government's commitment to help bring peace to that troubled area. The rapid and successful landing, the continued strong, responsible presence of our marines in Lebanon is in the finest tradition of the corps. Your readiness for such situations is vital to our national security.

So, today on your 207th birthday, I salute marines, former marines, and their families everywhere. Whether on land, sea, or air, marines have been semper fidelis -- always faithful -- to their country, and speaking for all Americans, I thank you for it. And I am convinced that when we get to heaven, we'll find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.

Thank you, and happy birthday.

Note: The President spoke at 9 a.m. to members of the United States Marine Corps Band in the Rose Garden. Prior to his remarks, Gen. Robert H. Barrow, Commandant of the Marine Corps, spoke and then presented the President with the first piece of a birthday cake.