CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – People gathered in Chesapeake ahead of the Marine Corps’ 247th Birthday on Thursday and they had a special guest of honor there who’s celebrated quite a few birthdays himself.

98-Year-Old Eddie Vincek and his wife, Mary, weren’t able to go to the Marine Corps Ball this year, so the Marines brought the celebration to them.

Eddie says he’s proud to be a Marine and the other Marines there say they were honored to learn from him.

Eddie remembered every word of the first verse of the Marines’ Hymn and sang right along with those who also answered the call to serve.

“Every single time they’ll sing right with us,” said Captain Nikolas Applegate. “They’ll never forget it.”

Captain Applegate says hearing Eddie’s story of perseverance reminds them why they serve.

“It’s days like this that really make us feel re-inspired to be in the marine corps,” said Captain Applegate. “Hearing it first hand, what happened, the real raw stuff that happened before him that he still remembers from back forever ago when he was our age is really neat to hear.”

“We always talk about our traditions and those who’ve come and served before us but being able to be in the same room and experience this has just been really amazing,” said Sgt. April Torres.

Eddie fought with the 5th Marine Division in the battle of Iwo Jima and was there for the entire 36-day battle. The corps even gave him a bottle of black sand from Iwo Jima to symbolize his time on the front lines.

“Once we got on shore there was no turning back,” said Eddie. “I thought uh-oh we are here for the duration. I was scared to death and I thought well this is it. I’ll do the best I can which I did, I survived.”

During the ceremony, Eddie passed his piece of cake on to the youngest marine in the room, 19-year-old Lance Corporal Preston Foley, symbolizing passing knowledge down to the younger generations.

“I know I can never compare to what Eddie has experienced, but it’s a great honor to fulfill the footsteps that the older marines have taken before us,” said Foley.

As Marines continue to fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea, they will always be honoring Eddie’s time as a Marine.

“I am so proud and I thank everybody for coming,” said Eddie. “Happy birthday everybody!”