236 Years of Service

I know, I’ve been quiet. It’s not you, it’s me. Really. It seems like a lot has gone on, but really, I have no great excuses. Turbo finished soccer last week, Lunchbox turned two on the 4th, and we attended the Marine Corps Ball this weekend (which even entailed a night away from home in a hotel room without kids! Yay!)

There’s a lot I could write about in all that, but I thought I’d spend a little time on the Ball. We go most years if we can… but I remember the first time I went about 8 years ago. As a new spouse, the entire thing was brand spankin’ new to me. I didn’t know the first thing about the Marine Corps or the Birthday Ball. So here’s what I didn’t know…

The Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775, making this November 10th the 236th birthday of the Corps.

The first year that I attended the Ball with the Major (then a Captain…), I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that there’d be a bar, and that I got to get my hairs did and wear a fancy dress. And that was seriously it. I didn’t expect to be moved or touched, and I didn’t know that I’d come away with a whole new perspective on my husband.

The Ball is full of pomp and circumstance. There is a sword procession, the presentation of the colors, and a formal cutting of the birthday cake — which is my favorite part. One piece is offered to the oldest Marine present, and another to the youngest, marking the continuity of the Corps — respect for those who have given years and have much to teach, and also for the youthful vigor embodied by the newest members. There is always a table set for one up at the front of the room — that represents all of the Marines who cannot share the birthday festivities with us or with their loved ones. There is usually a band — in our case last night it was the USNA band and they were really excellent. There’s some marching, lots of standing at attention, and a good deal of speaking. The Ball was the first time I’d seen my husband stand at attention. It was the first time I’d seen him wear his medals, and it was the first time I’d recognized these silly guys that he hangs out with as anything more than overgrown frat boys with F-18s. When called upon to do so, they all became rigid, serious… reverent. And I realized that when called upon, they would also all become heroes, if needed. They would protect one another and perform the duties assigned to them with the same stoic resolve I saw on all of their faces when the national anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn were played.

There is always a message presented from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. This year’s message reflected on the fact that 2011 is the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and illustrated the roles that Marines played in those events. Here is the message:

I got teary watching this — I lived in NYC during 9/11, and like most from my generation, this will forever be a turning point in my life — an end to innocence. I knew people involved very directly, though was lucky enough not to know anyone personally who lost their life. Still, many close to me were scarred by the events of that day and the images will never leave my mind. And mixing those memories with my appreciation for the sacrifice that Marines make — are making —  every day, was a lot to process. Mix it with a few glasses of wine, and poof! There goes my mascara.

It was a good time, but I try to remember what the Ball means as well, and what it means in my husband’s life. He’s a humble guy, and he would be the last person to call himself a hero, but when I see him in his dress blues, medals on his chest, standing at attention… I feel so proud of my Major. And he will always be a hero to me (and to two little guys I know!)

Semper fidelis.