"The force that is most ready when the nation is least ready," said Maj. Gen. James Kessler.
That force is the Marine Corps and on Wednesday, it marked an impressive milestone.
"The 10th of November is a big day for Marines," said Kessler. "It's obviously our birthday today. We celebrate 235 years of history and just a very, very special day for us."
Present and past Marines attended the ceremony.
They were treated to a visual history of the Marine Corps - told through the evolving uniforms created for a legacy of combat from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to World Wars I and II to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was emblematic of a world situation that requires the Marine Corps to move forward by turning back.
"We need to re-ground ourselves, if you will, in our naval heritage and our expeditionary nature," said Kessler. "So I see this as sort of the beginning of how we develop ourselves back into the Marine Corps we have been historically."
The celebration naturally concluded with the cutting of a very symbolic birthday cake.
One of the traditions of the cake cutting ceremony is that the oldest Marine present gets the first piece. He also gets the second piece which he then passes on to the youngest Marine present.
Colonel Ben Braden is that oldest Marine â" his first operation was the evacuation of Vietnam in 1975.
"That is a great honor because today I was looking at the Marine that â" looking at my replacement, probably, who's going to be standing there 38 years later," said Braden.
He also had a simple message for the youngest Marine, Lance Corporal Will Harper.
"Hold our standards high," said Braden. "The people that went before me did that. We've got a long history and that's what the Marine Corps is."