One of the highlights of being at an Embassy is getting to celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. It’s not just because it’s fun to see everyone get dressed up in their finest, or because the Marine Ball is always the best party in town – it’s because it’s an opportunity to honor the men and women of our most legendary fighting force.
We are unable to host a Marine Ball this year. Nevertheless, we celebrate this year – the 245th birthday of the Marine Corps – with equal solemnity and joy.
This is personal for me.
I was born in South Korea, a place that exists because 25,000 Marines fought tooth and nail against an onslaught of 120,000 Chinese Communist troops at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.
I grew on Guam, which was liberated from Japanese Imperialist Forces by the Marines during World War II. The people of Guam have never forgotten, and every year on July 21 we celebrate the landing of the Marines in 1944. The main road up and down the island – the one I drove every day back and forth to school – is called Marine Corps Drive.
Since joining the Foreign Service, I have found added reason to love the Marines. With few exceptions, every U.S. Embassy around the world is guarded by the Marines. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice performing this duty, as Sgt Nathan Aliganga did when our Embassy in Nairobi was bombed in 1997.
You are the frontline force that protects us; you are the first American face that greets anyone who enters the Chancery; you are the faithful friends and colleagues with whom we proudly represent our country.
I hope you know that each time I enter the Chancery, I see you:
- SSgt Mario Ramirez
- Sgt Paul Kainz
- Sgt John Brotherson
- Sgt Anthony Solarez
- Cpl Michael Valencia
- Cpl Jeremy Draughon
- LCpl Preston Correa
I see you and want you to know it is an honor each and every time to receive your salute. For me, it is a reminder not only of our duty, but of our bond – we do our jobs knowing that we have each other’s backs.
And I hope you know that when I wave back at you, it is an expression of respect for the history of the U.S. Marine Corps; of gratitude for your service; and of love for all that you stand for – duty, loyalty, honor, love of country.
You are the best and bravest that America has to offer, and all of us are proud to join today’s celebration in your honor.
Happy Birthday, Marines! Semper Fidelis!