marine corps ball: the few, the proudAaron Pylinski | Community Writer
Here in Iwakuni, the Ball is hosted at IronWorks Gym during the week leading up to the Marine Corps Birthday. This year’s festivities are from November 6-9, when Marines come together under the umbrella of brotherhood and celebrate the traditions that are the blueprints for the Corps today.
These Corps traditions, steeped in the values of honor, courage, and commitment and also include Ball-specific traditions like the Birthday Message and Cake Cutting Ceremony.
“There's the idea of camaraderie and brotherhood in the Marine Corps. You take those traditions from the past and bring them forward with you at the Ball,” says LCpl Gregory Rivera Ruiz from VMGR-152. He goes on to talk about the importance of leadership and its place in Marine Corps traditions. “Leaders lead by example, and they inspire you to be a better Marine.”
A Marine’s perspective of the Marine Corps Ball is as varied as the Corps itself. Being close to retirement and having attended 29 Marine Corps Balls, MGySgt William Turkoski from VMGR-152 can attest to how the Ball can vary based on location, unit, or even combat. “We had a Ball overseas, and we just had to make due with what we had available. We did the Birthday Message and Cake Cutting Ceremony.” He contrasts that with his experience at another Marine Corps Air Station, “At Miramar, there are thousands of people and it’s held on the parade field.”
One thing that remains the same is the melding of old Marines with the new signified through the Cake Cutting Ceremony where a piece of birthday cake is cut and passed from the oldest Marine present to the youngest. This signifies the passing of experience and knowledge from the old to the young of the Corps.
LCpl Rivera Ruiz is the youngest Marine with VMGR-152 and will receive his cake from MGySgt Turkoski, whose message to young Marines is “Pay attention to our traditions and take pride in the fact that you’re a Marine.”
There’s no doubt the history and heritage of the United States Marine are constituted with determination, grit, and the ability to do a lot with so few. From Sgt Ugarte’s perspective, that means setting the example as a leader. “As a leader in the Marine Corps, you have to be the hardest worker in the room. You have to learn to adapt and overcome.”
No one may know that better than retired GySgt John Butler, who says that he was "always taught that if you want people to follow you, you have to be able to go out and get done what needs to get done.”
Butler served 22 years in the Marine Corps and deployed twice during the Vietnam War. A glimpse of his time in the Marine Corps and his continued service with MCCS is included in this month's magazine.
Traditions are important to Marines, and the Marine Corps Ball is the one time during the year where we put that in the spotlight. “If we stopped caring about our traditions, where would the Marine Corps be? We have to keep [our traditions] alive,” says Ugarte.
The Marine Corps Ball, among other traditions, reminds us of where we came from, who we are and what we've done in history.
This year’s Ball will more than likely be his last as his time in service is finished next year, and he plans to transition back into the civilian life. He is taking with him those positive lessons and traditions he’s learned from his time in the Corps.
For LCpl Rivera Ruiz, as he continues his service, he plans to learn from his leadership and grow as a Marine. “I was taught that life [in the Marines] is like a toolbox. You take the good tools you learn [from your leadership] and put them in your toolbox and discard the bad ones.”
MGySgt Turkoski sums up the importance of the Ball and its traditions best, “Take a moment to reflect on the Ball. We talk about the Marines who are missing in action or the POWs, those Marines that aren't able to make it [to the Ball]. Don’t ever forget them. And don’t forget that you will always be a Marine. And no one can take away from you. It's going to be yours forever.”
Every Marine Corps Ball is a special occasion. It’s a moment for Marines to reflect on traditions, remember the fellow Marines they’ve lost along the way, and look to the future. The foundation of the Marine Corps was set at Tun Tavern and has been growing strong and steady ever since.
Marine Corps Ball Etiquette
The Marine Corps Ball is a significant annual event for Marines. Here are a few ways to ensure you're in the know:
- Wear something appropriate for the occasion. Marines wear their dress uniforms, female guests should wear appropriate evening wear, and male guests should wear a suit and tie or tuxedo.
- Respect the traditions. During the Ball, there is a ceremony that encompasses the cake cutting, speeches, Gen. Lejeune’s birthday message, and the Commandant's message. Altogether, the ceremony usually lasts an hour, so use this time to show the proper respect to all Marines, past, and present.
- Don’t overdo it when consuming alcohol. Though the Ball is a fun occasion, it is still best to maintain your bearing and have a plan if you decide to drink.
- Be polite. Use proper military customs and courtesies, and always show respect.
- Remember to have fun. Although it is important to behave yourself during the Ball, it is still an evening for fun and to celebrate the Corps and its Marines.