CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Sailors and Marines from Camp Taqaddum and Habbaniyah packed into the main-side chow hall here Oct. 13 to celebrate the Navy's 231st birthday.
"Even though we are still in a combat zone, we're not only fighting a war ... we're here to do traditional things in the battlefield as well," said Chief Kevin J. Jelensky, Navy personnel officer, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
"In wartime, you want to keep the morale up by still carrying on traditions," said Jelensky, a 38-year-old native of Inglewood, Calif.
During the birthday celebration, sailors observe such traditions as the cake cutting ceremony. Navy Capt. Chuck Blankenship, a 57-year-old general surgeon with Taqaddum Surgical, passed a piece of cake to Seaman Christopher L. Daniel, a 20-year-old corpsman with Military Police Company, CLR-15, 1st MLG (Forward).
When the oldest sailor passes the youngest sailor a piece of cake, it symbolizes the passing of tradition, said Senior Chief Ed Santa-Maria, command master chief, 1st MLG (Forward). It also symbolizes the passing of responsibility and the transference of values, so that the Navy remains the best in the world, said Santa-Maria, a 45-year-old native of Dededo, Guam.
"(The traditions) celebrate heritage ... (the) reminder of these traditions instill pride," said Petty Officer 2nd Class April D. Merriman, a 27-year-old corpsman with the Medical Support Operations Center, CLR-15, 1st MLG (Forward).
Keeping together as a family is one part of maintaining the progress towards winning the war and protecting freedom, said Santa-Maria.
Talking with the older service members in a more relaxed environment helps communication, and helps the senior enlisted and officers show their junior service members support, said Daniel, a native of Barnesville, Ga.
"(It helps us) come together as a unit, as sailors, as a service," added Daniel.
"If you continue to celebrate (traditions), it helps you remember where you came from, it helps you persevere in this conflict," said Merriman, a native of Bassett, Va.