After my Marine Corps Ball post last week I received quite a few emails with more questions on the Marine Corps ball. One of the most frequently asked questions, aside from what to wear, is what the Ball is all about. Why do they have it? What is it about? Why are those guys standing up and why do I have to stand up? So, before that wonderful date in November, please read this and hopefully, it will help answer a few of those questions.
The Ceremony (or Why I Hate These Shoes - Can I sit down please?)
So enough history and on to what the Birthday Ball is all about.
Birthday Balls may be Enlisted, Officer or a combination of both. Personally, I think segregation of the Balls is not consistent with the Esprit de Corps of the Marine Corps. However, it depends upon the size of the Marine unit and the whims of the senior staff. I've been to all types. Also, Balls are dependent upon the funding of the unit. Have you seen those base car washes? They're trying to get money for the Ball. The price of the ticket depends on how much money the unit has for their Ball funding. And some units have more money than others which is why some Balls are incredible and elaborate shows (CENTCOM) and others are very simple (PISC).
The evening usually starts with a cocktail hour and a time to mingle with your fellow Marines and their dates. Most often, this is not paid for expect to pay your own bar tab. Seating at most Balls is assigned, so make sure you find the seating chart and know what table you're at. About 10 minutes before the ceremony starts, the Narrator will announce people to start seating. Heíll do this again at 5 minutes before so make sure you've gone to the restroom because most often, the doors lock (yes, they'll make accommodations for you if you can't hold it for one or two hours).
After everyone is seated, the first thing that usually happens is the reading of the Commandant's message (or a video) followed by a Chaplain's prayer. Yes and everyone usually hopes the Commandant is not long winded!
Now you have the Adjutants Call. The Colors are marched forward along with the guest of honor and distinguished Marines. You're standing so make sure the shoes are comfy. The band will play the National Anthem and the Colors will be posted. Now you'll hear the Marine Corps Hymn. Marines whether in uniform or not, are all at attention. And wives/dates SHOULD stand STILL! Serious, be respectful, anytime your Marine is standing POA, stand up strait, hands grasped in front or behind your back. After the Hymnthey'll roll the cake out at this time, too, and finally, you can sit down.
Time for more speeches... This time, it's General LeJeune's birthday message which became a Marine Corps Order in 1921 by Major General John Lejaune himself, to have this message read on November 11th every year. Some commands will have a guest read the Marine Corps Order, other commands will play the commandants video address. After the Birthday message, the guest of honor will take the stage. Hopefully, you'll have a really engaging guest of honor.
And finally, the last and most memorable part of the ceremony and the cake cutting. By tradition, the first pieces of cake go to three people: the first to the guest of honor, the second to the oldest Marine, and the third to the youngest Marine. It's a very solemn moment because in many ways, its a symbol of the old breed passing the traditions and love of the Corps to the new breed. And for the rest of us getting up there in age, it's always ammusing to hear the birth date of the youngest Marine.
Now, the same procession that entered the room leaves the room and the dinner usually begins.
Each Ball will have its own flow and some have a traditional uniform viewing during the Ceremony, or, as in the past few years, a long video about the "State of the Corps," that is shown Marine Corps wide. It just depends. The Ceremony usually lasts about one hour, but I've seen it go on for two hours.