NORTH FORSYTH —The U.S. Marine Corps turned 240 years old on Tuesday, and North Forsyth High School held a party complete with cake and several hundred guests.
For the evening ceremony, which also doubled as an early Veterans Day tribute, North’s Marine Corps Junior ROTC unit was joined by those from several area schools, including Cherokee County (Air Force), Duluth (Navy) and North Springs (Army).
“I think it went real well, considering that the seven separate units on the field, none of them had ever practiced together before,” said Maj. Charles Kelly, senior Marine instructor at North. “Especially the three schools that joined us, that’s a tribute to their instructors for teaching good basic drill.”
Though the chilly night on the football field was a celebration for all branches of the military, it also served as recognition for North’s program.
The unit was given the Marine Reserve Association’s Outstanding Unit Award for the Southeast, which the program has won several times in recent years.
“Based on what the cadets achieved last year, our school is considered the outstanding unit for the Southeast region,” Kelly said. ”I’m real proud of the cadets, because they’ve won this award four out of the last five years.”
In addition, senior Haley Hubbard received the Legion of Valor Award for the top cadet in the Southeast.
“It feels awesome to win … because I know there are a lot of really good schools and really good cadets in our region and in the nation that could have won it over me,” she said. “I owe winning it definitely to our unit and Maj. Kelly. I wouldn’t be anywhere without [him] giving me guidance.”
Presenting the award to Hubbard was retired Marine Col. Rick Husty, a Cumming resident and former commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 42.
“He’s the guy I go to when I have a question that I’d like a senior officer’s opinion about,” Kelly said. “He’s retired, but you don’t forget how to be a Marine. He’s just a real friend of our battalion.”
Another former Marine, Command Sgt. Maj. Don Tackett, took part in the Marine Corp’s birthday cake ceremony, which symbolized the passing down of knowledge and experience.
“The cake is a symbol of respect, because the first Marine, or the oldest Marine, present gets the first piece of cake, that’s acknowledging their seniority and their wisdom and their knowledge,” Kelly said.
“The second piece goes to the youngest Marine present, in our case the youngest cadet. That again is symbolizing that the young guys are just as important as the old guys.”