MIDLAND - 238 years old. That's how old the United States Marine Corps turned on Sunday.
"You can't have a Marine Corp birthday without the cutting of the cake and the passing of it," 22-year-old Marine, David Collins,said.
It's a symbolic passing of the torch. The eldest marine cuts a cake with a traditional sword and shares the slice with the youngest in the brotherhood. 90-year-old Marine Felix Haler had never witnessed what happens at one of the events until he was honored as part of the Marine Corps 238th birthday on Sunday.
"Now he's stepping out and I'm stepping in," Collins said.
Haler joined the Marine Corps soon after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Then he remained in the combat zone for two years and 10 months witnessing deaths and enduring torpedoes. Decades later, he says something like that is still fresh in his mind, along with the loyalty he has for the Marine Corps.
"We're like brothers. There's not a one in here that wouldn't lay down his life for another," Haler said.
More than a dozen of those brothers surprised Haler at his home in the Polo Park Estates Retirement Community in Midland.
"I was just wondering what was gonna happen next," Haler said.
That's when he met Collins who's celebrating his first Marine core birthday back home. Together, they were escorted by vets on bikes to the VFW 4149 where they did the cake cutting ceremony. They also used the opportunity to bond.
"You know, he's a dying breed. We need to learn from him. You know everybody can learn from him. So to have him here to be a part of this is truly phenomenal," Collins said of Haler.
"I may be old but I may not be wiser, but I'd say, 'You can give out but don't give up.'" Haler said.
As all the Marines relaxed and celebrated their day, Haler and Collins remained overwhelmed with pride.
"Personally going through the passing of the cake, to me, it's just a reminder of once a Marine always a Marine," Collins said.