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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Having a Ball

It's the Marine Corps' birthday

Imagine an enormous room filled with the world's fiercest warriors, all dressed in their finest, their medals glimmering brilliantly in the light. It's enough to give a person some wicked goosebumps. This is what its like to witness the 235th United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

The birthday ball, held each year by various units of the Marine Corps, celebrates its formation on Nov. 10, 1775.

The nation's top Marine, General James F. Amos, the commandant of the Corps, addressed the Marines and their guests via video message. "For 235 years, at sea and ashore, Marines have succeeded in every clime and place...where hardship and adversity have often been the common thread," he said.

There was the presentation of the colors, accompanied by several rows of sword-bearing honor guards. The Marines stood at rigid attention as the color guard lowered the flags.

Next came the official birthday cake, which was slowly paraded through the center of the room. The Marine Corps Band played "The Marine Hymn" as the procession ended. Then the oldest and youngest marines present cut the cake.

"We're an assemblance of warriors, nothing else," said guest of honor Colonel J. Brian "Irish" Egan from the podium. Although retired from active duty, Irish is still strongly connected with the Marines. His salty language and colorful stories clearly move the crowd, and although his speech was rather lengthy for a formal affair, all eyes were fixed upon him.

"No other service has an annual celebration," said Irish. "Maybe that's because we were founded in a tavern, " he added with a chuckle. This brings forth a volley of oo-rah's from the Marines.

Irish served 33 years in the Corps, beginning his career as an enlisted man. After time in Vietnam as a rifleman, he was accepted into Officer Candidate School. Among his decorations are the Bronze Star with Combat "V", and four Purple Hearts.

"It was a long time ago that I attended my first birthday ball," said Irish. he went on to describe the oldest Marine present at that ball. "He was a PFC when Moby Dick was a minnow!"

Drinks flowed, as did stories about places the Marines have been and the things they have seen, both good and bad. There is an unspoken and robust sense of camaraderie among them, perhaps more easily seen by someone on the outside of their circle.

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