CDR Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D., USN(Ret)
This is to honor the finest Fighting Force in the history of humankind on its 242nd birthday.
I actually had the opportunity to attend a number of Marine Corps Balls in my career to honor our sister service in the Department of the Navy.
The photo to the right was taken at the 2005 Marine Corps Ball at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, where I was a graduate student at the time. The Ball was held in downtown Montgomery, AL, in what was at the time a very upscale Embassy Suites location. The evening was fantastic–a true tribute to the long history of honor of he Corps, with an exquisite live documentary of the Corps’ by actors wearing historic Marine uniforms from the Marine Corps Museum. That was my first Marine Corps Ball and I was again single at the time; however, my Air War College classmates and I had a good time together.
This would not be my last Marine Corps Ball at Maxwell AFB, as I was to join the faculty the following year and remain there as an Assistant Professor until retirement in 2011. One of the things that I made a point to do was to take each of my children to a Marine Corps Ball so that they could experience the honor that was evident in the Marines in attendance. All our Navy officers attended the Ball regularly to support our fellow sea service officers.
In 2007, my son attended the Marine Corps Ball with me. This would be a special event for him because the youngest Marine present for cutting the birthday cake along with the oldest Marine present would put bookends on decades of service that reflected the changing face of conflict–and the common thread of honor that remained strong as the world changed. The oldest Marine was a WW2 Veteran and member of the Marine Corps Association, which had a long-standing relationship with the Marines at Maxwell AFB. The youngest Marine as w 22-year-old Corporal who was still recovering from devastating injuries that he suffered in Iraq. To meet someone with that kind of honor and heroism who was so close to his own age was an eye-opening experience for my son.
The next year, my daughter accompanied me to the Marine Corps Ball. It was, perhaps, and even more important night for her because she had wanted to follow in my footsteps and join the Navy, but was unable because of her asthma. It was a nice night for us and she was able to experience the same kind of atmosphere as my son did the year prior. The same recovering Corporal was in attendance as the youngest Marine for the cake-cutting ceremony and the oldest Marine reminded her of her Grandad–not unusual, since he was also a WW2 Veteran.
I have always had great respect for the United States Marine Corps and the brave men and women who comprise its ranks. I spent (survived?) 18 weeks with a Marine Corps Drill Instructor at Pensacola, FL, when I was at Aviation Officer Candidate School. I had the opportunity to meet such legends as “Pappy” Boyington, Ken Walsh, and Joe Foss. I had the opportunity to be on joint exercises with the Marines in the Pacific while I was on Carrier Group 1 staff–III MEF was an impressive group of warfighters and strategists. I went to Maintenance Officer School with a Marine Major who was the lead Harrier pilot in the well-published photograph and print of Harriers flying over the burning oil wells of Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion in 1990. Finally, I served with many impressive Marines at the Air War College, first as a student and then as a faculty member.
My time spent with Marines throughout my career was time well spent. I learned much from each of them and it made me a better Joint Specialty Officer. Thanks to all those Marines with whom I had the honor to serve throughout my three decades in the Navy. There truly is no fighting force in the world that is greater or serves with more honor than the United States Marine Corps!
To my friends and colleagues in the United States Marine Corps, I wish you and your fellow Marines everywhere a happy 242nd birthday. Semper Fi!