On November 10th, 1775, at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, the US Marine Corps was created. Eight months before the birth of our Country.
This year’s 238th Marine Birthday Ball was Saturday night at the Swissotel in Ankara, and as always it’s hosted by the Marines themselves.
The special guest is the presiding Ambassador, Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., our Ambassador to Turkey
A video was played of General John M. Paxton, Jr., the four-star General, who currently serves as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, extolling the rigors and virtues of the Corps. He restates the common knowledge that every Marine is also a rifleman. They are able to maneuver within hours and have no room for error. You remember the saying: If it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight, call the Marines. There is truth to that.
This guest speaker was the Commander of the Royal Marines of the UK, stationed in Turkey. Their Marines Corps was established in 1664, a bit earlier than ours. He spoke with the usual dry sense of humor found in the United Kingdom.
He states that Marines are difficult to command because of their raucous behavior, yet they are the most disciplined of the Military fields. He said they will fight over which bar the Corps was formed in, but there is no argument they were indeed formed in a bar.
Since their inception, the Marines have served in every conflict America has endured. In total, over 30 engagements, from the American Revolutionary War to the most recent, Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.
After the speeches, a large flat birthday cake is rolled out. The first piece cut, goes to the special guest, Ambassador Ricciardone. The second piece is given to the oldest Marine in attendance, who then turns and presents it to the youngest Marine. Every year, the youngest seems to get younger.
Both US and the Marine Corps flags are prominently displayed. When the National Anthem is played, the Marine Corps flag is gently lowered to allow the American flag to remain in a position of honor. While the Star Spangled Banner is sung by a soloist, you can look around and see who the Americans are and who are not. The Americans will be mouthing the words of the anthem.
As with every year, a lone table is set at the entrance to honor those incredible soldiers who gave everything they had to ensure the freedom of America. It is a solemn place setting with the plate inverted, to show that although they will not be able to share a meal, they are still in our thoughts and spirits.
The feasts at the balls are always interesting and enjoyable. We were given a small plate of sliced duck on a bed of humus. I could have eaten nothing but that for the meal. The next course was bass for me and lamb loin for Terese, followed with a dessert of tiramisu.
Then the band played and people danced, and I slipped out into the foyer to visit with others.
I have worked with many of these Marines and have seen firsthand their courtesy and respect of others. When you ask them a question, the answer they give will either be, yes or no. If it’s not the answer you want, there is no way in hell that answer will change.
They refer to me as Sir, and I them. When I get to know certain ones on a personal basis, I will use their first name, and they me. Even with a more open camaraderie with them, there is still an acute resoluteness and respect they give me.
Many of these seem too young to be doing what they do, but when you meet them and visit with them, you see why they were chosen to serve at a diplomatic post.
… and I do indeed tell them to kick butt. D.