It’s a phrase that Marines and their families live by, and a principle being tested as cancellations of annual traditions are forcing families to find creative ways to celebrate the birth of the Corps.
The Marine Corps Ball is traditionally held on or around Nov. 10. In September of this year, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, moved to cancel the Commandant’s Ball and in its place hold a small cake-cutting ceremony that would be shared virtually. This year marks the 245th year the Marine Corps has been in existence since its birth at Tun Tavern in 1775.
“The events of this year cause us to operate differently. But remaining flexible and read have been the hallmarks of our Marine Corps for 245 years,” Berger said in an email to Military Families Magazine.
“This year the Sergeant Major and I will not be hosting a birthday ball as we normally would, but we will honor the birth and history of our Corps as we do every year. Given the current travel and gathering restrictions, we will honor our Corps while at the same time protecting our Marines, Sailors, families and friends.”
Berger notes that the Semper Gumby spirit within the Marine Corps hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Sergeant Major and I are proud of how Marines have adapted to the current operating environment. Across the globe, with the support of our families, Marines and Sailors continue to train and operate for the security and defense of our nation. As Marines do every year, Sergeant Major and I are conducting a cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the birth of our Corps and to honor Marines and Sailors operating at home and abroad. We ask our Marine Corps family, on 10 Nov., regardless of where you are in the world, take a moment to reflect on our 245-year history of commitment and sacrifice. Check-in on your fellow Marines and those who have worn our uniform and wish them a ‘Happy Birthday, Marine.’”
The Commandant’s birthday ball message reminds everyone how the Corps’ legacy lives on in every Marine.
And Marines are never known to miss a party, even in a pandemic. Instead of the traditional birthday ball celebrations, Marine Corps families are getting creative with their celebrations. Here are some of the unique ways the 245th birthday is being celebrated:
A Marine unit in Okinawa isn’t letting COVID stop their independent celebrations. The active-duty service members of the unit plan to run a relay race of 245 legs in celebration of the 245th birthday. Each service member will run their leg of the race independently, about a mile and a half each. The festivities will begin at midnight on the Marine Corps birthday and will go until complete.
Some small celebrations will occur. One unit plans to do a tailgate-like outdoor event where each platoon will gather with social distancing in place. Families who have been “quarun-teaming” together plan to celebrate together and support local restaurants by purchasing meals for their family to enjoy a night without cooking. Just don’t forget the dancing. It isn’t the USMC Ball until the Cupid Shuffle is played!
Social-distanced style picnic
The Weapons & Field Training Battalion at Parris Island Recruit Depot in South Carolina had a birthday celebration outside the unit with social distancing. Each family was provided with blankets with the patch of the unit on it, and they used those blankets for their socially distanced celebration. The traditional cake cutting ceremony was conducted but instead of a formal dinner and dessert, the families were each given a piece of pre-sliced cake to take back to their blankets.
“[There was] no dressing up but our kids got to run around,” Marine Corps spouse Holly Vega said in an email.
“The base has been on lock-down. To have this event was truly wonderful— [it] lifted many spirits!”
Donations in place of celebrations
Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a ball dress, up-dos, make-up, ball tickets, hotel stays and babysitting, some families are donating what they would normally spend on their annual birthday ball to organizations that support military families worldwide. Here are a few ideas of where to donate:
- Donations to The Semper Fi Fund support a wealth of programming and resources that in turn support veterans and their families, often at a medically and financially difficult time.
- Toys for Tots is a well-known organization among the Marine Corps family with 97% of all donations going to the purchase of unwrapped toys for less fortunate children.
- The Blue Star Families organization provides programming and resources for military families, and donations support these continuing programs and partnerships.
- A donation to the USO supports military programming for active duty service members world-wide in their 250+ centers and amazing airport lounges.
- Donations to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) go toward quick assistance loans and programming like budget classes and equipment for visiting nurses.