ARLINGTON, Virginia — At a motivational run the day before the Marine Corps’ birthday, the commandant and the top enlisted Marine underscored that their troops are the few, the proud and the different.

And fervently celebrating the birthday of a military branch founded 247 years ago is just one of the things they say that makes Marines different.

Addressing Pentagon-based Marines in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black said people often ask him why the service’s birthday is such a big deal.

“My simple answer all the time is, ‘Well, if you knew, you would know.’ Right?” he said. “And secondly, it’s because we’re frickin’ different. We’re Marines. And every single thing we do is different for a reason.”

He added, “Mostly, I tell them, in my mind, ‘Because we’re better than you.’ Rah?”

That prompted an emphatic “Rah” from the crowd.

“In my current position, I can’t say that,” Black quipped. “Gunny Black said it all the time.”

Speaking to Marine Corps Times after the 3.2-mile motivational run in formation from the Pentagon to the memorial and back, Berger echoed Black’s sentiment.

“Nobody does it like Marines do it,” Berger said of the birthday run.

“Headline: Marines do it different,” Black suggested.

Berger asserted that service members in other branches don’t even know when their birthdays are.

The birthday run involved blocking off a major road just outside of Washington, D.C., meaning that some commuters may have found out the hard way that it was Marine Corps birthday season.

A week and a half ago, Berger and Black ran in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K, respectively. Those races also finished at the Marine Corps War Memorial, which stands at the top of a hill near Arlington National Cemetery. The two Marine leaders said they were fully recovered from their post-race soreness.

“Running up that hill a week and a half ago was a lot harder than running up it this morning, no question about it,” Berger said. “Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are 500 Marines pushing you from behind.”

Also in attendance at the birthday run was Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jonathan Knauth, whose rank makes him unusual even within an “unusual” branch.

This Marine Corps birthday will be his last as an active-duty Marine. Knauth plans to retire on Nov. 1, 2023, after more than 30 years on active duty.

Then his plan is to become a National Park ranger, melding his passion for the outdoors with his desire to keep serving the nation. But for now, he is still serving as a senior visual information officer in the Pentagon.

“It’s great to be out here on the birthday, spending time with other Marines, with senior leadership, which you don’t always get to see — even at the Pentagon, you don’t always get to see them,” Knauth said.

“It’s the last time being out here and the last chance to share the specialness of the birthday and what it means to have the camaraderie and the brotherhood and the sisterhood with my fellow Marines. It’s really motivating for me.”

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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