“The Few, the Proud”: So says the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, and so it is. The Marines are the smallest branch of the U.S. armed forces, but their reputation outmatches their size. Today, the marines celebrate their 235th anniversary, born before the country was in 1775.

“The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” Eleanor Roosevelt once said.

The Marine Corps makes up less than 11 percent of the U.S. military but more than 23 percent of the Americans killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the New York Daily News notes.

Around the world, Marines celebrate the day with a cake tradition: The oldest Marine takes the first bite of birthday cake decorated with the U.S. Marine logo and then passes it on to the youngest Marine.

I wondered whether the folks at Camp Pendelton in Southern California were setting off mystery missiles, but, in fact, they were settling in for a steak and lobster luncheon.

A more somber birthday note has been making the Facebook rounds:

“Say a prayer for ‘Darkhorse’ 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan and have lost 9 marines in 4 days. Please re-post this.”

The loss has been even heavier than that. Thirteen members of the troop have been killed since the battalion hit the Sangin area of northeastern Helmand province in October.

[story via The Washington Post]