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Marine Corps Birthday Ball held

The Marine Corps Ball took place Saturday evening, Nov. 10, on the 237th birthday of the Corps. The event was organized and hosted by the Gaffney-Oglesby Marine Corps League Detachment 1328 at The Red Barn.

The traditions expressed during the event are dear to every Marine's heart and hold symbolic meanings.

Did you know there is no such thing as a former Marine or a retired Marine? By order of the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, James Amos, a Marine is a Marine.

Shane Gabbard, detachment chaplain, gave the invocation.


Gunnery MSgt. Dean Bearup, who served as master of ceremonies, introduced those seated at the head table. They included the featured speaker MSgt. Leo McAnn and his wife Millie, and Detachment Commandant Robert Lopez and his wife Danna. On the right side of the table were Cpl. Rosie Higgs and her husband, retired Judge Max Higgs from El Paso, and Bearup's friend, Cynthia Bridgeman.

Bearup said the four-county region of Grant, Luna, Hidalgo and Catron has 250 Marines, with the state of New Mexico having 5,000.

"If we gathered all the veterans in our area who served in any of the Armed Forces, there would not be a building large enough to hold us all," Bearup said.

He then invited the members of each service—Army, Navy, Air Corps or Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines—to stand and be recognized. He then asked all family members of a veteran to stand. His last recognition was for Gold Star Mother, Mary Cowan, who received a standing ovation. He explained that a Gold Star Mother is a designation no one seeks, because it means the mother has lost a son or daughter on duty in the service of country.

Bearup pointed to a small table set to one side of the room—the prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action table. The small table symbolizes the frailty of a POW; the white tablecloth, purity; a single rose, family and friends who await the return; a red ribbon in honor of those not among the gathering; a slice of lemon, bitter fate; salt, those who wait at home; inverted glass, the missing cannot give a toast; an empty chair, because of the missing Marine; and a candle, a light of hope.

"We call the POWs and MIAs our brothers and sisters," Bearup said. "We pray that all our brothers and sisters soon come back among us."

Capt. Bob Schloss of Albuquerque presented his "dissertation" on his thoughts of being a Marine.

Marine Frank Donohue of the detachment read the historic message from Lt. Gen. John LeJeune, then-Marine Corps Commandant at the celebration of the 197th birthday of the Corps. Lopez read the message from the current commandant, Amos.

After the dinner was consumed, the traditional cutting of the birthday cake took place.

Detachment member Charles Howard cut the cake with a ceremonial sword. The first piece of cake is traditionally given to the guest of honor—the featured speaker. The second piece goes to the oldest Marine in attendance. Fred Clark, born in 1923, was the oldest Marine present, having served in World War II. He, by tradition, takes a bite of the piece and passes it to the youngest Marine in attendance, who was Eric Jauriqui. The next piece is ceremoniously placed on the POW-MIA table, so he or she may celebrate the Corps' birthday wherever he or she is.

After McAnn's speech, which was a short version of his many years serving in the Marine Corps, Bearup led the five traditional toasts to various positions. It was explained that it is not the person being toasted, but the title the person carries. The first was to the Commander-in-Chief; the second to the Secretary of the Navy; third to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, fourth to "our fellow comrades," and last to the U.S. Marine Corps.

The evening's ceremonies ended with prayer from Gabbard. A dance followed.

Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

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