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Celebrating the Marine Corps

David Epps's picture

I attended my first Marine Corps Ball in 1971. I was newly married, had an argument with my wife at the ball, and stalked over to the bar and swigged, from the bottle, a healthy swallow of Old Crow. As my eyes bugged out and my breath left me, the barkeep said, “Betcha don’t do that again.” He was right. Never drink in anger.

The next time I attended the ball was the following year. I was stationed at Quantico, Va., and was one of several enlisted men hired as plainclothes security to work the Officer’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball. There I discovered that you don’t have to be an enlisted man to do something stupid with alcohol.

There was a long break before I ever attended the ball again. I wasn’t opposed to them, I was just never in a community or in a position to attend.

A few years ago that all changed when I became a charter member of the Sgt. Clyde Thomason MOH Detachment of the Marine Corps League. I have attended for the past few years and it is always a highlight as the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps is celebrated.

This coming year, the public, and especially all active duty Marines and Marine veterans are invited to attend the 238th Birthday Celebration of my beloved USMC.

The date is Saturday, Nov. 2, and the place is Flat Creek Country Club in Peachtree City. Cocktails are at 6 p.m. and the dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Marines throughout the world faithfully celebrate the birth of the Corps (please don’t spell “corps” as “corp” or “core.” It just brands you as ignorant). The Corps was born on Nov. 10, 1775, fittingly enough, in a tavern. This year, the guest speaker will be Lt. Col. David Steele, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 49, Detachment Alpha, from Robins Air Force base. Steele has served three deployments in Afghanistan.

A highlight of the ball is the traditional cutting of the Marine Corps birthday cake with a sword. By tradition this cake cutting incorporates the youngest Marine present, the oldest Marine present, and the guest of honor.

It is a ceremony that reflects the passing of traditions from the older generation to the new, thus sustaining the stalwart traditions of the Marine Corps.

Each year, the old familiar pride returns as I attend these celebrations and a lump comes to my throat. I am, and have always been, proud to be a United States Marine. And, as the current Commandant of the Marine Corps recently made official what all Marines have always known: “There is no such thing as a former Marine.”

Tickets to the event are $45 per person and include dinner, two sides, and a dessert. Seating is limited to 200, but I have my two tickets so I am set. Tickets may be purchased by mailing MCL 1325, P. O. Box 2307, Peachtree City, GA 30269. Checks should be made out to Sgt. Clyde Thomaston MOH MCL #1325, or simply MCL 1325.

“MOH,” by the way stands for “Medal of Honor,” which Sgt. Thomason received posthumously during World War II. For additional info, go to or call Michael Keever at 678-827-1325.

Hope to see you there, Marines and others who love the Marine Corps! Happy Birthday, Semper Fi, and Oorah! I promise not to swig Old Crow.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee ( and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at]


PTC Observer's picture

U.S. Marine Corps Hymn (Marine Hymn)

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.

Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev'ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job--
The United States Marines.

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

Semper Fidelis

I grew up in a city that was surrounded by military bases and the Marines guarded each and every base. My home became a second home to most of the men stationed there. I almost married a marine and to this day rue that I didn't! I attended many Marine birthday parties and loved the pomp and ceremony. It is something you never forget. I felt that of all the service personnel I ever met the Marines were the most dedicated. Most of them were full of themselves and I think that was to their and our benefit instead of detriment. To this day I mourn all those young men I knew who gave their lives in Korea and Vietnam as well as all the other wars or engagements. All I knew were fine men and a credit to their country and their Corps. Happy Birthday to each and every Marine, you are thought of and cherished on this and every day. Semper Fi!

That last verse was always my favorite. The good Bishop was also one of the charter members of our local Marine Corps League Detatchment, and we couldn't have done it without him. In fact, as the first Commandant of the detachment, I don't know what I would have done without him. One of the secrets of successful leadership is to surround yourself with the very best. David fits that description to a tee. Semper Fi to you and all my brothers.

My uncle was a Marine pilot in the 1960s. I will never forget the wedding because the other soldiers made an arch with their swords for my aunt and new uncle to walk under as they exited the church. It was very exciting and a little scary (I was four or five at the time). It definitely made an impression on me because I can close my eyes and not only visualize it, but still hear the swords being drawn.

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