November 10, 1775: The fledgling United States Congress authorizes two battalions of Marines to serve aboard the fighting vessels of the nascent Continental fleet, serving as board parties, coastal raiders, and other combat duties in support of the fleet. Captain Samuel Nichols, recruiting officer and recognized as the first Commandant of the Marine Corps, set up shop in Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern to recruit the first of those whom would be called United States Marines.
Two hundred and forty-four years after the Marine Corps was literally born in a bar…I celebrate with a single glass of lager.
Marine Corps Ball, MGM Grand National Harbor
2 November 2019
Patuxent River Detachment 1305, Marine Corps League (of which I am a proud member) and the Marine Aviation Detachment, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, co-hosted this year’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in National Harbor, MD. The MGM Grand was a short drive from the Gaylord National Resort, where I attended the Runner’s Expo for the Marine Corps Marathon only a week ago.
My boss at ASI, at my asking, helped sponsor the Ball with a donation of $1,000 for the Ball Fund. To show gratitude, the Ball organizers awarded my boss four tickets to the Ball. He took two for himself and his wife, and donated the last two to me.
I received the tickets in August. It was the first week in October when i remembered I had them, and a friend half-jokingly asked me “Who’s your date for the ball?”
So, along with my tapering for the Marathon and finding lodging for the MCM Weekend, I had a new logistical wrinkle for the next month: finding a date.
Now, I don’t have much of a social life, and southern Maryland is somewhat close-held as far as the dating scene, so I had something of a hill to climb. Younger Marines had gone on YouTube over the years, practically begging famous actresses to attend their local Marine Corps Ball with them. I wasn’t;t going that route, so I had to make my search discreetly..and without embarrassing myself on social media.
After quietly advertising my desire for a date to the Ball around my apartment complex, I got a call on Thursday night from a young lady named Anne Marie, who was an accountant for one of the detailing services for my apartment complex. She heard through one of the tenants that i was looking for a date for the ball Saturday night (November 2, almost a week after the MCM) and she offered to accompany me. A Half an hour on the smartphone, and i had a date!
The only notable excitement I had on Saturday was that she had to drive from Baltimore, and she called to say that she would change at my place before we took off from my place. Great, now I had to clean up the apartment and get dressed before she got here. Somehow, I managed to get the place looking presentable and get dressed (less my sport coat, which I would put on at the MGM Grand).
Another piece of nervousness: Anne Marie checked the MGM Grand website for events, and saw another unit’s ball being held there on November 7th. Did I get the dates messed up? After about five nervous minutes, I confirmed that yes, this was another unit’s ball (they were Headquarters Battalion out of Marine Corps base Quantico, VA) and that the MCL-MAD ball was that Saturday night.
Anne Marie and I did make it to the MGM Grand in a timely manner, and managed to find our way from the parking garage, to the casino elevators and a little bit of a walk through the casino, all the way to the MGM Grand Ballroom. Marines in dress blues, Marine Corps insignia all over the place…yep, we’re here.
Anne Marie was a wonderful date. She was my compliment in every way; she carried conversations with my friends while I stayed in the back ground. She didn’t get any alcoholic beverages, so she didn’t get drunk and showing out and making a scene. The again, neither did I.
I wore a golden suit to the Ball this year, my MCL friends wore tuxedos with small medals, or the MCL Uniform of red and gold jacket with red trousers. Note to self: a tuxedo with cummerbund for 2020. Make it so!
Fast forward to the highlight of the evening: WE. WENT. DANCING. Yes, there is the camaraderie and Spirit de Corps when celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday with brother and sister Marines, but it always kind of rang hollow when I would watch fellow Marines take the dance floor with their wives and girlfriends. Not for me, and not this year. Anne Marie and I cut the rug, with tunes played by an actual house band (no DJ with an iPod and his laptop stereo system). I do remember the white female singer doing an excellent rendition of a soul classic, but I have forgotten the song she did so well.
About 10:30, Anne Marie and I took our leave, and I drove her home. I was really glad to have her as my date for the Ball that night.
Because I had to drive her home so she could get to her car and drive back to Baltimore (to go to work the next day? long story), neither of us even got so much as a glass of champagne for a birthday toast. Oh well.
Marine Corps Birthday Celebration, Brudergarten Beer Garden
10 November 2019, Leonardtown, MD
My Marine Corps birthday tradition: the annual MCL Detachment celebration, accompanied by several good beers; a brisk walk back to the nearby hotel for the night, then up bright and early to march in the MCL Color Guard for the Leonardtown Veterans’ Day Parade and Wreath Laying Ceremony.
The plan for Sunday afternoon was a drive to the Empire Inn Hotel and Suites, where I would check in and watch the 2019 Major League Soccer Cup Final. After the game ended (5:30 p.m.-ish), I would stroll down to the Brudergarten and join my Marine brothers and sisters for the festivities: beer, Reading of General John A. LeJeune’s Birthday Message, the Birthday Message from the current Commandant, General David H. Berger, more beer, the Cutting of the Birthday Cake, and more beer until the party ended about 10-ish.
I got to the Empire Inn about 2:45 p.m., with plenty of time to check in and get comfortable for the game. I pulled on the door to open it…and it was locked! I saw a sign that said USE OTHER DOOR and I assumed it meant the back door. I went in the back…also locked. I went back to the front door and took a good look inside…the Empire Inn and Suites had breathed its last, having closed months ago.
No hotel room for the night meant that my alcohol consumption would be very limited; there was a Maryland State Troopers Barracks only a mile or so up the road, and they were an active and visible presence in St. Mary’s County. So, it was back home for another twenty minute drive. I got back and watched the game from the apartment clubhouse and made the drive back to Leonardtown and the Bru.
The Bru was packed. I’ll say this: the Marines could hold a birthday celebration in a library and we would pack the place, as long as somebody brought along a keg of beer and a few hundred re solo cups. I got a delicious lager from the Bru’s menu of craft beers, and the night went as planned. I even saw a few MCM mock turtlenecks from various past years, so I got a few pictures with them.
At 9:00, with my one celebratory beer and two pieces of chocolate birthday cake, I made the drive home, fortunate to avoid law enforcement on the trip home.
The morning would bring the Veterans’ Day parade. The one noteworthy item from this event: the parade organizers were concerned that the Color Guard would march too fast and get too far ahead of the parade. Keep in mind, this is three men in their late forties plus with one former marine in his thirties with not-so-great knees.
WE”RE going to fast? C’mon, man…
And so, two hundred forty four years after Captain Samuel Nichols enlisted the first United States Marines in a drinking hall…I got ONE beer.