Editor’s ‘hot date’ with Marines

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To the Travel Security Administration (TSA), my bag probably looked like I had a hot date when the X-ray machines showed a little black dress, heels and three shades of red lipstick.

The X-rays didn’t lie. I was Jason’s date to the best birthday party of the year — the Marine Corps ball.

Every year, each Marine Corps training depot holds a ball for the Corps’ birthday, meaning Jason’s event was in Columbus, Ga., on Saturday.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Mike Rowe, the actor from “Dirty Jobs,” attends the ball as an honorary guest every year. He said in a Facebook post he finds it humbling because Marines will talk about anything but themselves.

I noticed that too. I couldn’t tell you the number of high-ranking officers who wished Jason and me a “Happy Birthday.”

An hour before that, we nervously checked the seating charts to see how many big wigs we’d be sitting with. The look of relief Jason had when he found out we were sitting with three of his friends was priceless.

While it’s a lighthearted affair by Marines’ standards, the ball has its own set of solemn ceremonies.

These included presenting the colors and reading the pledge before cutting the cake. I was taken aback by the birthday cake.

Eight or so Marines wheeled it out in a rhythm reminiscent of pallbearers. Many of the guests brought their kids along, but the room was silent.

The cake was brought to the front of the room and the oldest Marine present was given the first piece. The youngest Marine present was given the second.

A Marine announcing all the formalities explained it signified the passing down of the Marine traditions and brotherhood from generation to generation.

One table was left empty and covered in a black tablecloth to signify Marines lost over the years. Way to hit me right in the heart, Marine Corps.

And that wasn’t the only time. The guest speaker used historic battles to illustrate what set Marines apart.

He said national surveys show people associate other military branches with inanimate objects — the Air Force with planes, the Navy with ships, and so on. But people think of a Marine in dress blues when they’re asked to describe the Marine Corps.

The speaker reminded the Marines present they are the most important asset to the branch they serve. He took a moment to acknowledge the families, spouses and girlfriends of Marines afterward, which had me tearing me up again.

It wasn’t about me. I think the other men and women listening as guests realized that too. It was a thank you for supporting Jason, and a thank you to the other dates supporting their significant others.

All I did was show up, and I can’t express how lovely it was to know that was enough for Jason. You’re enough for me, chief, and you’re going to make one hell of a tank mechanic.

To close this week, I want to thank all veterans. This one’s for you. And Happy 241st Birthday, Marines.

KELSEY GHERING

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