240th Marine Corps Birthday Ball


Somehow after six years of dating and ultimately marrying a Marine (ew, what?), I’ve never actually made it to the illustrious Marine Corps ball. A combination of more than 3 years of transatlantic dating and a serious aversion to formal wear anything but gym clothes will do that to you. But I think I saved the best for first. 

It’s easy to get lost in the crowd at a ball in the fleet, especially if your unit is 1,000 strong like J’s. But at Embassies worldwide, the ball takes on more significance. Not only is it the social event of the year, but everyone knows everyone. Only somewhere between a handful and two dozen Marines serve at each post and they are, quite literally, the face of the Embassy. Everyone passes by a Marine in Post One every single time they enter and exit the building. Rather than being part of the crowd, the Marines are really part of the few and the proud here. (Throwing up in my mouth a little at how lame that sounds, especially the rhyming.)

This ball was half party, half history lesson for me. So if history isn’t your thing, enjoy the pretty pictures and I’ll see you in the next post!

The aptly named birthday ball celebrates the creation of the Marine Corps in November 10, 1775. The Ambassador took advantage of history to win some laughs during his speech, noting that the very first Marines enlisted that year in, where else, a bar called Tun Tavern. Celebrated since 1925, the ball is deeply rooted in tradition. It reminded me of a wedding, from the dresses to the meticulously calculated ceremony, and of course the cake cutting. The first slice of cake is served to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine. This simple action symbolizes the experienced Marines passing their knowledge and expertise to the next generation.

I was very surprised that the ceremony called no attention to the Missing Man table, though perhaps that is the intent. It may be a downer to some, but I appreciated the somber undertone to the ceremony and the speeches. After all, the night is just as much about those who can’t be there.

Lucky for those who can, though, the night turned around almost instantly. The guest speaker’s speech was punctuated with a mad dash to the bar,  lest you think a State Department ball is any bit classier.


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