Today is the Marine Corps 246th Birthday.
So what is a birthday without a good story?
And so here we go:
On September 11, 2001 the USS Constellation was returning to San Diego from a six month deployment and was forced to run "race tracks" in the Pacific for 3 days while the US Navy sorted out the 9/11 attacks in NYC, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Aboard was Mrs. Cedar's cousin and his son USN Petty Officer and Photographers Mate Peter Carney, both were enjoying the traditional family "Tiger Cruise" from Hawaii to San Diego up to that point.
Finally after a three day delay the Sailors and Family Members aboard CV-64 were allowed to return home to San Diego.
So it was only fitting that the Constellation would return to the Persian Gulf on her 21st deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Once again Petty Officer Carney was aboard.
The run up to deployment was rapid and once underway the crew of the Constellation had little down time. Within weeks the "Connie" was on station in the Persian Gulf.
In late February 2003 the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 "Death Rattlers" embarked aboard the Constellation. The F/A 18 Squadron's history is long and colorful, their insignia proudly displays the famous "Gull Wing" Vought Corsair of World War II. One of the 323's Officers was Major Bill Barber a F/A-18 "Driver".
The full ship's complement at this point is a small city with 3,150 Marines and Sailors. There is little time for socializing. The entire carrier group of six ships, and more than 5,000 men and women is on high alert.
On March 19, 2003 Operation Iraqi commenced.
Major Barber is on one of the first missions to strike Baghdad. The sorties are non-stop and around the clock. But after about a week things began to become routine.
Down on deck 5 the photograph's mates went about their job processing miles of film and images of targets and aiding in the damage assessments.
The knock at the photo lab door was hardly tentative. The young sailor who opened the door was woefully surprised and immediately came to attention.
Seconds later he found Officer Carney: "OMG you're in some deep shit Carney, there's a Marine Major out front and he's asking for you by NAME!!!
Petty Officer Carney laughed and said "It's ok he's family".
Semper Fi Marines!