MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
When Navy Lt. Gerald Henderson, base property officer, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, fi rst enlisted in the Navy Jan. 6, 1997, he did it to “see unique and different places in a small amount of time.” But what inspired him to return to active duty years later as an officer was the camaraderie.
Henderson, a native of St. Louis, dined with his fellow shipmates at Anderson Hall Dining Facility, during a special Navy birthday lunch, Oct. 18. The staff at Anderson Hall saved the celebration till the week following the historical date due to the Columbus Day holiday.
Service members and eligible civilians dined on steak, crab legs and birthday cake, as the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band filled the hall with music, all in celebration of more than 200 years of Navy history.
“For 238 years, our Navy has overcome enormous challenges and faced adversity,” said the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Michael D. Stevens, in a 2013 birthday message to sailors worldwide. “We’ve risen with those challenges and built a reputation as the strongest naval force the world has ever seen. We work daily among a rich landscape of ships, bases and waterways, but it’s not the environment that keeps our Navy moving forward. It’s our people. This is our heritage.”
The Continental Congress founded the U.S. Navy Oct. 13, 1775. The congress authorized the branch’s first two ships, used to impede British vessels from bringing supplies to its enemies, according to “U.S. Navy: A Complete History,” by the Naval Historical Foundation. Within the following years, ships grew in number, new regulations were drafted and more personnel recruited.
Marine and Navy units share MCB Hawaii. The sailors of MCB Hawaii hold various billets, from piloting aircraft to treating patients as corpsmen or providing spiritual guidance as chaplains. Some units are made up of both sailors and Marines, like Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24.
Like Henderson, other sailors also like the travel aspect of the Navy. Henderson said a single deployment could give sailors the opportunity to visit as many as 10 different countries.
“We are always deployed around the world,” said Navy Lt. Christopher Ricard, system avionics officer, MALS-24.
Ricard, of Lowell, Mass., also attended the lunch at the facility, celebrating the birthday.
For other sailors, joining the Navy was a welcome change in life. Chief Petty Officer Christopher Owens, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, said some of the people he grew up with never left their hometown of Compton, Calif.
“The Navy gave me an opportunity to be successful and overcome the challenges I had in childhood,” Owens said. “It gave me the opportunity to see something better than the environment I grew up in.”
Through the Navy, Owens said he was able to further his education, receiving a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and completing pharmacy technician school. The Navy also enabled him to provide support for his family.
As Owens attended the birthday lunch at Anderson Hall, he said the Navy birthday was also a good time for people to learn from the past and look toward the future.
“If we can get over the challenges of the past, we can get over the challenges ahead of us,” Owens said. “The Navy’s birthday is special to me. It’s a time of reflection for me. Every accomplishment that I’ve had thus far, the Navy has had a part in it.”