Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Birthday U.S. Marine Corps!

Last night, we attended the 236th Marine Corps Birthday Ball held in Lagos, Nigeria.  


Living in a foreign land, it is even more meaningful to celebrate our great nation
 and those who protect us.  What an honor to attend!  


The evening began with a cocktail reception, then a ceremony by the Marine Corps.  
The color guard presented the colors, and honored the U.S. Ambassador, who flew in
 from Abuja, the capitol of Nigeria.  This year due to security concerns, 
the Marine Corps Ball was cancelled in Abuja for the first time.  


The cake was presented and in military tradition, the first slice was cut with a sword.  


The first piece was presented to the honored guest, which was the U.S. Ambassador.  
The second piece was given to the oldest marine in attendance who took a bite, 
and passed it to the youngest Marine at the event.  This symbolizes the transfer of 
knowledge to the next generation.  The evening was especially memorable since it was
also the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  


There were video speeches from the Commandant and the Sargent Major, as well as an address read from the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, amidst lots of "hoo-rah" from the Marines.  The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria spoke, as well as the Consulate General who lives in Lagos.   
The Marines presented the speakers with beautifully beaded African Masks.  
My guess is that they probably have a collection of them!!  


However, the part of the ceremony which touched us most was the lighting of the candle in honor of past and fallen Marines.  As the candle burned next to a solitary cap, the men did a slow motion 
salute as taps was solemnly played.  It made us think of Charles' Dad who served
 in the Marine Corps and we saw many in the audience wiping away tears.   


But most of all, we enjoyed celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday with friends.  
We almost didn't get to go, so we were especially grateful!!   
We ordered our tickets a month ago,  just as soon as they went on sale - 
understanding that were set for the Ball!  However, about a week ago, we learned
 that we didn't really have tickets, but were on the waiting list - our entire group of 14!! 
  

It turns out that an error had been made and the American Women's Club had not 
received any tickets at all!  We had been asked to purchase the cake and have had priority 
in the past, but this year, we were totally out of luck!!  


Thankfully, the Marines along with the CG's wife, Kathleen (and Mary Walker from AWC) came 
through and we were able to secure SOME tickets.  We decided that Charley and I would take 
the last two tickets since we were the ones arranging the group.  Daily, the count changed.....
we had two tickets, then four, then six and finally all 14!!  We ran to pick them up - 
only to find that we were still TWO short!!  


Charles and I agreed that we would go out to a nice dinner instead and delivered all the tickets available to our friends - with no worries.  However, on Friday afternoon, I received a call that the Governor of Lagos state MIGHT not attend, so the plan was that we show up as the
Governor and his wife!!    Only in Lagos!!  


While our names were on the security/entrance list, we knew that the governor and his wife 
were assigned to the front VIP table and we were taking their seats.   If they had arrived, we'd 
be looking for chairs!  If they didn't arrive, our names would be exchanged at the head table.  
Thankfully, they called before the event, so we didn't have any trouble at all!!  
And, we had one of the best seats in the house!!  
It just required a bit of flexibility and gave us one more grand adventure in Nigeria!  


Lisa (right in the middle) was a Marine, so it was fun to honor her too!  


The women from our group - 
Sandra, Lisa, Robbin, Marilyn, Gail, Janet, Marla and Joanne. 


Everyone had such beautiful dresses and looked so nice!  


We can't forget the shoes!!   


The Ambassador seemed to enjoy the party and danced all evening!  He is pictured dancing with Lisa.  We  also thought it was a bit odd that the live band played LOUDLY all during dinner.    
However, as soon as dinner was over, the band finished and a DJ arrived to play music for dancing.  
Typically, you would think it would be the other way around!  :)   


We are pictured above with Kathleen and Joseph Stafford, the U.S. Consulate General
 and wife assigned to Lagos.  Kathleen has been such a great addition to our community 
and works tirelessly on the American Women's Club events AND is a very talented artist.  
I am grateful that she has also become a friend! 


The Marine Corps Ball was a fun event and we stayed until the very end!!  
I am so grateful that the Governor and wife had other plans!!  


Oh - and I have to comment on Charles' cumberbund and bow tie made of red and blue 
African fabric.  Since he forgot to bring his to Lagos (and we were afraid that the one that 
Chad mailed wouldn't arrive in time), we contacted a tailor and voila - 
new pieces just perfect for the Marine Corps Ball!!   
I think he looks handsome too!!   
Another great souvenir and memory from our time in Lagos!!  

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