Hurry up, you Marines. Hurry up and find those few good men you're looking for. You've got a lot of them to find before you balance all the good Mary Doran does for you.
A woman doing good for the Marines? It's not unprecedented. Generations of wives have rolled bandages, and female members of the Corps have served behind the lines and scenes for 34 years.
But a women doing good for the Marines with a cake pan? They don't teach that one at Parris Island.
They do, however, witness it every week at the Marine Barracks in Southeast Washington. There, every Friday for the past eight years, Mary Doran has arrived with a cake she has just baked for the boys.
No strings, no ulterior motives, no salary, no fine print. Just lemon icing, maybe a little baked-in rum, an occasional dash of English walnuts. Call her bananas if you like; all Mary Doran knows is that she loves the Marines, and expresses it calorically.
"How can a coffee cake pay back the debt I owe the Marines?" asks Mrs. Doran, a 55-year-old Alexandria housewife. "I don't want to sound soapy or hokey, but they've done so much for me. They've made it possible for me to raise my family in America. They're special children of God; I really think they are."
The guys down at the barracks don't think Mrs. D. is half bad herself.
"Her unfailing dedication is what impresses us," said Capt. Stephen P. Freiherr, adjutant of the barracks, at 8th and I Streets SE. "It's quite above and beyond the call. She's a tremendous supporter."
But the proof of the pound cake is how long Mrs. D's creations last. Answer: not very. Capt. Freiherr has set up a rotation system within the barracks for the Friday delivery, "and it isn't unusual for me to get calls from one group or the other saying, 'Isn't this our week to get it?'"
To produce her weekly confections - usually coffee cakes weighing about three pounds - Mrs. Doran rises at 4:30 a.m. every Friday. With the help of her daughters, Mary Alice, 22 and Katie, 20, she spends about an hour strewing raisins and apples around her cake pan.
Then, as the girls are dressing for work, Mrs. Doran lovingly covers the finished product with plastic wrap. "Sometimes there's still steam on it when I get it there," she says.
Shirtsleeve Freudians will be disappointed to learn that Mrs. Doran has no deep-rooted hangups about Marines. Her father wasn't one, her brother wasn't one and her husband wasn't one. In fact, until 1962, Mrs. Doran had never met one.
That, however, was the year the Doran family, then living in Gates Mills, Ohio, piled into the family car for the ritual sightseeing visit to Washington.
In front of the Custis-Lee Mansion, Mrs. Doran recalls, she met a man who suggested that the summer evening concerts given by the Marine band at the Watergate bandshell would be an ideal way to entertain five young children.
The Doran came, they saw and they were conquered. They must have been. Every weekend for the next two years, the family piled back into the car and drove the nine hours from Cleveland to catch the concert, or the Friday night parade at the barracks. Then it was nine, long, sleepy hours home.
Understandably, the journey "got a little old," Mrs. Doran said. So the family moved to Northern Virginia in 1964.
But they were still just faces in the crowd until 1969. That year, Mrs. Doran's son Lloyd graduated from high school.
"He decided he was going to join the Marines and go over and win the war in Vietnam all by himself," his mother remembers. She preferred that he go to college. After much debating, Lloyd agreed to visit Capt. C.L. Taylor, then the barracks adjutant, to hear a non-family opinion.
Capt. Taylor advised Lloyd to go to college, then aim for a career as a Marine officer afterward. The young man did so, and is now a Marine lieutenant stationed in Okinawa. Besides sighing with relief, Mrs. Doran decided she had to repay Capt. Taylor in some fashion. The cakes have not stopped since.
Neither has attendance by assorted Dorans at the concerts and parades. Besides the White House, Mrs. Doran holds the only standing invitation to the parades. She had special parking, and a grandstand seat bearing her name on a brass plaque is set aside for her.
Her apartment, meanwhile, is a budding Marine museum. On display in it are a Marine Band snare drum and harmonica, as well as a brick that was used to construct the original home of the barracks adjutant in 1801.
But why the Marines? Why not get hung up on the Army or the Navy? Why not something a little more usual, like, say, the Redskins?
"Because the Marines are greater than anything," Mrs. Doran replies. "They're just marvelous people. I couldn't do anything bad after shaking hands with them. I also have kind of a maternal instinct about them. You know, they're away from their mothers.
"The thing I admire, beside their courage, is their discipline. They have results from that discipline. I just stand an look at them in awe."
Mrs. Doran will not share her coffee cake recipes because they don't exist. "I'm a dumper," she says, "a pinch of this, a little of that." She is so casual that she is not even sure if her angel food cake takes 12 eggs or 14.
But she is sure why giving cakes gives her pleasure. "It's being appreciated," she said. "I'm a human being, you know?"
And not a forgotten one. There, on the living room shelf, are six yellow roses and six reds. It seems there was a recent birthday, and the officers and grunts pooled their pennies.
Her cakes, Mrs. Doran vows, will go on "until the day I die - as long as the barracks is there." So, she says, will the extras she produces for holidays - Easter candy baskets, Thanksgiving fruit baskets and her famed July 4 apple cake decorated with firecrackers.
"For me," Mary Doran says, "it's automatic. Like going to church on Sunday."