Celebrating the Marine Corps


I attended my first Marine Corps Ball in 1971. I was newly married, had an argument with my wife at the ball, and stalked over to the bar and swigged, from the bottle, a healthy swallow of Old Crow. As my eyes bugged out and my breath left me, the barkeep said, “Betcha don’t do that again.” He was right. Never drink in anger.

The next time I attended the ball was the following year. I was stationed at Quantico, Va., and was one of several enlisted men hired as plainclothes security to work the Officer’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball. There I discovered that you don’t have to be an enlisted man to do something stupid with alcohol.

There was a long break before I ever attended the ball again. I wasn’t opposed to them, I was just never in a community or in a position to attend.

A few years ago that all changed when I became a charter member of the Sgt. Clyde Thomason MOH Detachment of the Marine Corps League. I have attended for the past few years and it is always a highlight as the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps is celebrated.

This coming year, the public, and especially all active duty Marines and Marine veterans are invited to attend the 238th Birthday Celebration of my beloved USMC.

The date is Saturday, Nov. 2, and the place is Flat Creek Country Club in Peachtree City. Cocktails are at 6 p.m. and the dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Marines throughout the world faithfully celebrate the birth of the Corps (please don’t spell “corps” as “corp” or “core.” It just brands you as ignorant). The Corps was born on Nov. 10, 1775, fittingly enough, in a tavern. This year, the guest speaker will be Lt. Col. David Steele, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 49, Detachment Alpha, from Robins Air Force base. Steele has served three deployments in Afghanistan.

A highlight of the ball is the traditional cutting of the Marine Corps birthday cake with a sword. By tradition this cake cutting incorporates the youngest Marine present, the oldest Marine present, and the guest of honor.

It is a ceremony that reflects the passing of traditions from the older generation to the new, thus sustaining the stalwart traditions of the Marine Corps.

Each year, the old familiar pride returns as I attend these celebrations and a lump comes to my throat. I am, and have always been, proud to be a United States Marine. And, as the current Commandant of the Marine Corps recently made official what all Marines have always known: “There is no such thing as a former Marine.”

Tickets to the event are $45 per person and include dinner, two sides, and a dessert. Seating is limited to 200, but I have my two tickets so I am set. Tickets may be purchased by mailing MCL 1325, P. O. Box 2307, Peachtree City, GA 30269. Checks should be made out to Sgt. Clyde Thomaston MOH MCL #1325, or simply MCL 1325.

“MOH,” by the way stands for “Medal of Honor,” which Sgt. Thomason received posthumously during World War II. For additional info, go to www.MCL1325.net or call Michael Keever at 678-827-1325.

Hope to see you there, Marines and others who love the Marine Corps! Happy Birthday, Semper Fi, and Oorah! I promise not to swig Old Crow.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]