Today marks the 240th birthday of the Corps, celebrated the tenth of November to commemorate the date in 1775 that the Continental Congress voted to raise two battalions of what was then known as Continental Marines. Military balls came into existence around 1925, with the cake ceremony tradition first being recorded ten years later. The cake ceremony? More on that in a bit. I first attended the Marine Corps Ball here in Ankara in 1987. The invitation came from the Marine Security Guard Detachment, those young men who guarded the U.S. Embassy—would I accompany a Marine Corps captain who was flying in from Germany for the event? In other words, I was asked to be the blind date of this guy. How could I say “no” to the Marines? It was a wonderful evening, hosted by the U.S. Embassador and his wife at their residence.
Twenty eight years later, the opportunity arose once again to attend the Ball, this time with seven fellow teachers from BLIS. The venue–a downtown hotel with beefed-up security for the night (walk-through metal detectors). The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey was the guest speaker; as soon as he finished talking, the birthday cake was wheeled in by four Marines. They marched in perfect step, walking slowly and swinging arms. The gunny sergeant in charge of the event cut the cake with a brilliantly shining sword, the first piece going to the guest speaker, the second to the oldest Marine in attendance, and the third to the youngest Marine in attendance. The cake was then slowly wheeled out and the first offering of the four-course dinner was served.
Later, a DJ spun oldies and current favs as the dance floor overflowed with young and old, military and civilians. I was sitting out a song when i heard “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis so I jumped up to join the fun (you know, just to represent Seattle). A bit later, a friend and I taxied back to campus. Happy for the opportunity to attend and to honor the outstanding men and women who have earned the right to be called Marines.