Robert S. McRobbie picked up the sword and cut the cake.
He handed a piece to John S. Rutovich, commandant of Marine Corps League Westfield River Valley Detachment 141. Rutovich ate one forkful, then handed the plate back. It's not that he didn't like the way the cake tasted. That's just a Marine Corps tradition.
"The guest tastes the cake and deems it fit for consumption," said McRobbie.
The cake-cutting ceremony, held Wednesday in The Bunker -- HCC's veterans' lounge and resource center -- was all about tradition. The event was a celebration of the 237th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Members of the Marine Corps League were joined by HCC students and staff who have served in the Marines, along with assorted friends and guests.
"Tradition is one of our strengths in the Marine Corps," said Rutovich, the guest speaker. "Here we go once again with the tradition of cutting our cake and being very proud of our service."
The cake-cutting has been a Marine Corps tradition since the founding of the Marines in 1775, but this is the first time the annual birthday celebration has been held at HCC, according to McRobbie, an HCC student and Marine Corps veteran who led the day's ceremonies. The actual Marine Corps birthday is November 10th, but was recognized at HCC Nov. 7 to coordinate with Student Activity period.
"This will be happening all over the world on November 10th," said McRobbie, who lives in West Springfield. "This is a way to honor our brothers who have fallen in sacrifice and those serving overseas protecting our shores and those serving at home."
The event began with the ceremonial display of the cake and the singing of the Marine Hymn. ("From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli. We fight our country's battles, in the air, on land and sea ...")
McRobbie read a birthday message from General James F. Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, then cut the cake with a Marine Corps sword. After Rutovich sampled the cake, McRobbie, in keeping with tradition, handed the first piece to oldest Marine in the room, Ron Thibault, 71, an HCC parking lot attendant, who served from 1958 to 1961. Thibault, an Easthampton resident, in turn handed the next piece of cake to the youngest Marine, HCC student Pedro Perezurena, 22, of Springfield, who was wearing his dress blues.
"It's great to see all the Marines come together for this," said Perezurena. "It shows we're here."
Along with the cake, the celebration also featured hot cider. "Our tradition is hot buttered rum," said McRobbie, "but because we're in school, we can't have alcohol."
Veterans Day ceremonies will be held at HCC on Nov. 14 at 11 a.m. in the Courtyard, followed by an All Veterans Resource Fair from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Picknelly Dining Room, Frost 265.
Photos: (Left) Marine Corps veteran and HCC student Robert S. McRobbie cuts the cake celebrating the 237th birthday of the Marines. (Right) John Rutovich, commandant of the Marine Corps League Westfield River Valley Detachment 141, talks to Marine reservist and HCC student Pedro Perezurena.