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AUBURN — Austin Ireland and Frederick "Fritz" Allen didn't expect to have a day named after them while celebrating the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Auburn mayor and former Marine Mike Quill declared Saturday to be Austin Ireland and "Fritz" Allen Day during the ceremony honoring the founding the of the Marines. Ireland and Allen, who were both in the Marines for two years, said they didn't know Quill would acknowledge them.

"It was a surprise and an honor," Ireland said.

Over 40 people were present at the Marines event at Memorial City Hall Saturday morning. Cayuga County Legislator Charles Ripley, R-Summerhill, who had been a major in the Marines and was in the organization for 24 years, was the primary guest speaker for the event. He acknowledged those with "a warrior's spirit" who have fought to defend freedom.

"For 243 years, Marines have fought and won wherever and whenever," Ripley said.

Before honoring Ireland and Allen, Quill asked those in attendance to remember Marines who are no longer alive.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Wagner, the Marine recruiter for Auburn, and recent recruits took part in the flag-raising ceremony that kicked off the event. Wagner and the recruits barely released a shiver while standing still in the frigid weather.

Cody Wheeler, one of the recruits, said he joined the Marines in order to make himself the best person he can be.

"There's always room for improvement, and I figured the Marine Corps could offer that," Wheeler said.

Another recruit, Jonathan Ammerman, also talked about why he enlisted.

"Be a part of something and wanting to serve our country," he said.

Related cake-cutting parties, one at the American Legion Swietoniowski-Kopeczek Post No. 1324 and the other at the Veterans of Foreign Wars No. 1975, both in Auburn, were held later that day.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education Reporter