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JJ Kelley’s celebrates USMC Birthday and honors veterans

Annual dinner event combines ceremony and celebration

by Carrie Steinweg

LANSING, Ill. (November 11, 2019) – “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”

To a civilian, those words might not hold a lot of meaning. To a Marine, that slogan could not mean more. The phrase was recited during a video message from the US Marine Corps Commendant at JJ Kelley’s Restaurant & Pub on Sunday night and repeated many more times throughout the evening.

November 11 is Veterans Day and November 10 is the birthday of the USMC, so for the past several years, Vince and JoEllyn Kelley, the owners of JJ Kelley’s, have hosted a dinner on November 10 to honor and thank those who have served. Last night veterans enjoyed a free buffet dinner, followed by a ceremony that concluded with a cake cutting. The place was packed with veterans from all branches who have served in a span of more than six decades.


The ceremony began with a welcome from Mayor Patty Eidam, who mentioned in her remarks that she is a proud veteran of the United States Army. She then introduced some scouts from Lansing Boy Scout Troop 276 who played the National Anthem on instruments, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by US Navy Veteran Jeff Schoettle, who is a member of the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard. Father Bill MacFarlane led the room in prayer, and the song for each branch of the military was played as veterans from that branch stood and saluted.

Mayor Patty Eidam, a US Army Veteran welcomed those in attendance at JJ Kelly’s annual veteran event. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)


Then it was time to recognize the 244th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. After the USMC Commandant video message was played, Mayor Eidam requested that all Marines report to the stage. The Marines introduced themselves, some offering additional information—where and when they served, their role, and their rank. Spinner Framke of Lansing shared that he enlisted on the USMC birthday 39 years ago to the day. His son, Colin Framke, who also served in the USMC, was also in attendance.


A birthday cake was prepared for the traditional Marine Cake-Cutting Ceremony. The 244th USMC birthday was celebrated on November 10. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
Lansing USMC veteran Jamison Kooi led the cake-cutting ceremony and explained its significance. “It is customary at Marine Corps Birthday celebrations worldwide to cut a traditional cake in celebration of the birth of our illustrious Corps,” he said.

The cake-cutting is an annual renewal of each Marine’s commitment to the Corps and the Corps’ commitment to our nation’s quest for peace and freedom worldwide, according to a script available on the USMC website. As is tradition, the first piece of cake is given to the guest of honor. It was cut by Jack Olson, who served from 1979 to 1983 and passed to honored guest Don Talbot of Munster, who served from 1967 to 1968 and was taken as a prisoner of war.

The second piece went to Joe Galassini, the oldest Marine in attendance. Born on November 9, 1930, he enlisted on his 21st birthday. The 89-year-old passed it on to the youngest Marine present, Colin Framke, 30, “further emphasizing the fact that we care for our young Marines before we look to our own needs,” read Kooi.

From left: Colin Framke, Joe Galassini, Jamison Kool and Don Talbot. Kooi led the traditional Marine Cake-Cutting Ceremony. Galassini, 89, the oldest Marine in the room, passed on a piece of cake to Framke, 30, the youngest Marine, as part of the ceremony. Talbot was the special guest. He is a Vietnam veteran who escaped after being held as a prisoner of war. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

A number of combat veterans were there who served in the Korean War and other conflicts since. Even though more than a half-century has passed since some of them served, the memories don’t seem to fade. One Korean War veteran got emotional at the reference to the “Forgotten War” as it has come to be known.

Bruce Ross, a combat soldier in Korea from 1952–1954 recalled his experience of working in temperatures of 30 degrees below zero and being blown out of an outpost. “I didn’t take a scratch,” he said. “Don’t try to tell me there’s not somebody upstairs.”

Juanita and Bruce Ross of Lansing attended the veterans event at JJ Kelley’s. Ross is a US Army veteran who served during the Korean War from 1952-1954. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg is a freelance writer, photographer, author, and food and travel blogger who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. She most enjoys writing about food, people, history, and baseball. Her favorite Lansing Journal articles that she has written are: "Lan Oak Lanes attracts film crew," "Why Millennials are choosing Lansing," "Curtis Granderson returns home to give back," "The Cubs, the World Series, fandom, and family," and "Lansing's One Trick Pony Brewery: a craft beer oasis."


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