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Cpl. Earle W. Soper Jr.

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Veteran attends 60th consecutive Marine Corps birthday

19 Nov 2015 | Ida Irby Marine Corps Base Quantico

Earle W. Soper Jr. has not missed a Marine Corps birthday celebration in the last 60 years.

Soper choose to celebrate this year’s 240th birthday with the Marines and civilians of Marine Corps Combat Development Command at the Raymond G. Davis Center aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. The ceremony honored the legacy of Marines through the symbolic passing down of traditions to the youngest Marine in the ranks from oldest leatherneck in attendance.

The Marine Corps celebrates their birthday on Nov. 10 and Veterans Day on Nov. 11. “The two days go hand in hand,” said presiding officer, Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, MCCDC commanding general, who thanked Soper and his family for attending the ceremony. Both holidays recognize young Marines and honors the “few present from Soper’s generation” to those who have departed this life.

The message of the Gen. John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant, was read before the cake cutting stating, "In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history … generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres."

Cake was served first to the oldest Marine present, 87-year-old former Cpl. Earle W. Soper Jr., and afterward a slice was served to Cpl. Zackary R. Caravan, MCCDC, who was born in 1994.

The military legacy of Soper began in the summer of 1945. The Beverly, Mass. native joined the Marine Corps at 17-years-old and attended initial training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He then trained to be an infantryman at Camp Pendleton. This prepared him for his first duty assignment where he operated a 60mm lightweight mortar.

January 1946, he was assigned to the USS Starlight. Soper departed for Tangku, China, and after a 21-day journey he was attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment upon arrival. While overseas he guarded the Pei-Tang Bridge for the Peking – Muckden Railroad.

As a Marine on active duty he earned the rank of corporal. In 1946, he boarded the USS General Anderson for home, where he was honorably discharged. Soper went on to work as a construction engineer and retired in 1993.

— Writer:
Marine Corps Base Quantico