The United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball is one of my favorite events of the year. It is a chance to get dressed up, attend a formal dinner, and honor the history of the Marine Corps.. Iwakuni is faced with some unique challenges. There is not a venue on base that is large enough to hold all of us and nothing off base would come close. To remedy this the commands split up and hold separate balls for about a week.
The gymnasium is completely transformed with volunteers working a week before to clean (de-smell-ify!) and prepare the area. It was surprisingly nice! I had my doubts on how they were going to make it not look like a basketball court.
Following the pageant was the traditional ceremony. This is a formal introduction of the guest speaker, presentation of the colors, and then cake cutting.
The first piece is served to the guest of honor.
Next the oldest marine present gets a piece. He then passes the cake to the youngest marine present to signify the passing of knowledge and tradition. When the youngest marine's birthday is read there is always a collective groan from the crowd.
Lastly is the guest of honor's speech. Over the years we have heard some interesting speeches. I was very excited to meet Richard Engel a few years ago. This year I had been hearing buzz that the speaker was going to be a former WWII kamikaze pilot. He was scheduled to fly home to Hiroshima on August 5th from a training mission in northern Japan. Because of poor weather he was delayed one day - a day that made all the difference. On August 6th, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima instantly killing every member of his family. In broken English he went on to describe how his views of Americans changed because one marine that was stationed here after the war. I have been searching for his speech on video - it was amazing and I was crying pretty hard by the end of it.
After his moving speech we were served dinner. The first course was a mixture of cheeses and fruit with a glaze. Next came a tasty salad followed by either chicken, steak, or pasta. Finally, came dessert - birthday cake! We had already gotten up and started moving around by that point so I missed cake.
After a few hours of dancing we walked home with some friends. It was a great night and my favorite Marine Corps Birthday Ball to date!