Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 Commandant's Marine Corps Ball

2 years ago we were fortunate enough to be invited by our wonderful friends Don & Anne to the Commandant's Marine Corps Ball. We meet them a few years ago on vacation and became fast friends. Don is an Naval Academy grad (a few years ahead of Ken) and retired Marine. We had such an amazing time at the Ball in 2009 that we just knew we had to go again and share the experience with more friends. In 2010 - it's a long story - but the short version is tickets sold out in about an hour which we didn't expect so we did not get tickets. We decided there was no way we could allow that to happen in 2011 so I set 3 alarms and was ready to go 10 minutes before they were supposed to go on sale online. As time got closer I started clicking even though it wasn't time yet til the order finally came up! Score! Tickets purchased!

We had a much larger crowd this time so we ended up at 2 tables - Don & Anne with some of their other friends at one and then us at a table with 8 friends of ours who were newcomers!  We all decided to stay at the Gaylord because it's just too convenient not to! Since the ball is there it just makes sense!

The day of the ball us gals lucked into me finding a gal who would come to the hotel to do our hair and make-up so we got to lounge about and get all dolled up in the comfort of our hotel room.

The pre-party started in our room at 4:45. You all know what a party planner I am so this was no different. We had a bunch of food to snack on and of course a few options for drinks. (Luckily Anne loaned us some serving plates cuz I couldn't exactly pack that kind of stuff in my luggage and I didn't exactly want to buy that stuff there!)

Official cocktail hour for the ball was from 6-7:30 near the ballroom but it's cash bar so we figured what the heck - we've got our own party going on up here! There were some birthday festivities as well as an unofficial pinning for Jared which added to the fun.

We enjoyed getting to know the people who we didn't know before and getting to catch up with the folks who we hadn't seen in ages til about 6:30 and then headed down to the ball to mingle with 2,982 of our closest friends :)

We got in line for pictures even though it was ridiculously long in hopes that we would get to the front of the line before it was time for dinner. Luckily we made it and in addition to the formal couple portraits we also got a group photo that I have the feeling could turn out to be pretty funny!

There are Marine Corps Balls all over the country (and even the world) but this is the Commandant's so you can imagine that it's pretty spectacular! This was the 236th Birthday and boy do the Marines know how to celebrate!

We entered the ballroom just in time for dinner and oh what a beautiful spectacle it is! It's huge and just oozes class and patriotism.

There are 300 tables of 10 so you can imagine how immense the room is. Down the middle is an aisle for the entrance of the band and dignitaries etc. Luckily they have drop down screens that show what is going on in the front of the room or else it would be impossible to see unless you were in the front couple rows.

The tables were elegantly decorated with flowers in the middle and each table got 1 bottle of red wine and 1 bottle of white wine. 

As is customary we also got a memento of the event - this year it was a miniature mameluke (the customary sword of the Marine Corps). Very appropriate I thought.

The ceremony began with a video message that was filmed all over the world from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The video literally made everyone - men and women alike - tear up if not openly cry. They talked about the sacrifice of the military (obviously especially the Marines) and the 10 year anniversary of the attacks on September 11th. We ladies all struggled to dab our eyes so as not to run our painstakingly applied make-up!! After the video message the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps Concert happened. I get the chills just typing this! It was really neat they marched up the middle aisle and played a few songs.

These guys and gals are absolutely amazing! After this it was time for the National Anthem which was sung by a fantastic baritone.

Then General LeJune's Message was read. This message from the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1921 directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published to every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. This began this fantastic celebratory tradition that is equalled by no other service.

Next in came the Commandant and the special guest - Defense Secretary Panetta. At first I was unsure how he would be as the speaker but he later proved to be quite fantastic!

One of the traditions is for the Commandant and the Special Guest to cut the birthday cake. The special guest takes a bite of the piece that was cut and then here's where the really cool part comes in. The oldest Marine at the event takes the next bite of that first slice of cake and then he passes it to the youngest Marine at the event to take a bite. As you can tell the cake was in the shape of the Pentagon to keep with the theme of 10 year remembrance of 9/11.

The Commandant spoke a bit and then presented the special guest. Panetta was a great speaker who made everyone laugh, smile and think with his remarks. Truly a good choice for this.

Then it was time for dinner which was quite tasty. The main dish was steak and sea bass. Now is when the fun really ramped up again! We ate, drank and chatted. We enjoyed getting to see all of the people there celebrating. There are so many folks that it is definitely some good people watching! After dinner it was time for some dancing! You gotta love a formal event where the dance floor is packed! There was a band for some time and then it switched to a DJ.

Everyone had a blast! We danced and laughed and then when we'd had all the dancing our feet in heels could take we headed back to our friends' boat to finish off the night.

The Marine Corps Ball is an amazing (and fun!) tradition that we feel so honored to get to be part of!

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