Thursday, November 6, 2008

USMC Birthday Ball

Last night was the 233rd Marine Corps Birthday Ball for MWHS 2. It was held at the New Bern Convention Center and was very nice. We tried to get there in time for the social hour but traffic was so heavy getting off of Lejeune that it took us 45 minutes just to get out the front gate and across town to Highway 17 and then another hour to get to New Bern. We got there just in time for the amazing opening ceremony which in keeping with tradition, included a memorial table with a candle, purple heart medal, and blank dog tags to recognize those Marines who have given their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. It was a truly moving ceremony. We have not been to a birthday ball in probably about 5 years and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them and the pride that one feels when you see all these men and women in their dress uniforms standing at attention. The guest speaker was Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to attend a Marine Corps Birthday Ball, let me share a little history with you.
On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress resolved to raise two battalions of “American Marines.” Congress commissioned 31 year old Samuel Nicholas, a well-known Philadelphian, as captain of the fledgling force of Continental Marines. Nicholas raised two battalions of Marines and began the long, illustrious history of the United States Marine Corps.

On November 1, 1921, General John A. Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No.47, Series 1921. The order provided a summary of the history, mission, and traditions of the Corps. General Lejeune directed that the order be read to every command each subsequent year on November 10th in honor of the founding of the Marine Corps. This tradition has continued every year since 1921 throughout the Corps.

The first official “Birthday Ball” was probably held in 1925 in Philadelphia. No official records of the event were held prior to that date. Guests at the ball in 1925 included the Secretary of the Navy, General Lejeune, well-known national leaders, and representatives from all the military services.

On October 28, 1952, Commandant General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. directed the celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday be formalized throughout the Corps. The details were included in the Marine Corps Drill Manual approved in 1956. General Shepherd’s order helped bring together the inclusion of a cake ceremony and other traditions still held every year at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. One such tradition is that Marine Corps policy now mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present. The second piece goes to the youngest Marine.

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