The weekend of November 2nd I had the privilege of travelling to Madison, WI to attend the 238th Annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball. It was a blast and the weekend absolutely flew by. Once things had settled back down, I felt the need to tell you about it and in doing so hopefully give those of you who may attend one of these beautiful events in the future a hint of what to expect. I know I would have appreciated some insight; I’ve found that most of the blogs out there written about this event are from the viewpoint of wives of Marines and are set to the tone of “it’s just another work function to dress up for.” I promise it’s a whole lot more fun than that!
First of all, I must caution you that you probably won’t know much about it in advance. I know I didn’t, and more than a few times resorted to Googling it just to see what I was in for. Really though, as Mike and I sat down for dinner at the Ball, the Private First Class across from us looked at me with confusion and asked “Have you ever been to one of these things before?” My answer was, of course, “no”. Between, me, Mike, PFC Bombshell (no, I’m not kidding, that’s really his last name and yes, he is a mortar-man) and his girlfriend none of us had more than the vaguest clue as to what to expect out of the night. Seriously. The guys had spend a good portion of their day at the training center and still weren’t completely solid on which medals they were supposed to wear that night. So don’t plan on planning ahead. As I’ve been told many times now, the phrase “hurry up and wait” basically originated with the Marines.
Personally Mike and I both live upwards of two hours away from where the Ball was held, so with the Ball being on Saturday evening we went down Friday afternoon and stayed at a hotel through Sunday morning. It was just much easier that way because it gave us a place to get ready and for me to hang out at while he had to go earlier in the day to make up training that was missed because of the Government Shutdown.
As far as attire goes, he’ll be in his dress blues. As Mike puts it, you can be the ugliest motherf*cker in the world and still look hot in those. So bonus points for that. Assuming you are the “date” and a female, wear a nice dress. It sounds vague because it is vague; even more so than I realized. We saw someone who we think may have worn her wedding dress. We saw older women wearing simple cocktail dresses. There were many girls who looked like they were plucked from the nearest high school prom, rhinestones, loud colored printed dresses and all. A few select women definitely could have been lost on their way to a strip club or picked up off the corner. I’m not even being mean, it’s just the truth; at one point the four of us were standing around people watching and there was a woman with a skin-tight super-short black dress with a see though floor length overlay. You know the type I’m talking about? Well this one definitely did NOT cover her butt cheeks all the way and we got more than a few unwanted views of her crotch. Even the guys were disgusted. Moral of the story; don’t be the wedding dress lady or the stripper wannabee. Keep it classy and you’ll be fine. I personally wore a dress I had worn as a bridesmaid at my mom’s wedding and fit in just fine. If I go again though, I’ll probably try for a red dress, just because I like matching.
Once we got there, there was a cocktail hour followed by a ceremony, dinner and dancing. The ceremony had a video about the proud history of the USMC, as well as a speech, some recognition of important people and other traditions involving the oldest and youngest Marines present. It really was a nice ceremony. It was actually over quicker than we expected and I promise it wasn’t boring. Dinner was at assigned tables, which seemed to have been chosen pretty randomly. We were seated with PFC Bombshell and his girlfriend as well as a Lance Corporal and his girlfriend whose names I didn’t catch. We made fast friends with Bombshell and his girlfriend and stuck with them for most of the night. At the tables everyone even got cute keepsake glasses . Word to the wise though; keep them in your hand or take them out to the car/truck immediately. We had a heck of a time trying to find ours once the tables got cleared, but after an adventure through places near the kitchen where we probably weren’t allowed to be, we got our glasses! (We noticed later that some people of higher rank had been hoarding them when they found some left unattended.)
Now, the dancing started off pretty slow, but after a while people started having fun and really got out there.This may or may not have been due to the free beer being provided all night. As a lot of younger Marines dispersed either to go home or go party somewhere else, the lowest rank shaking their groove thing out on the dance floor was probably a Sargent. I promise it was hilarious. I got some good clips of it that I of course took the liberty of posting to Vine and Instagram. Go check them out at @cantorose14. You’re welcome. ;). As a side note to that though, this was definitely not the drunken mess you’d expect at weddings or other such events. Marines are held to high standards. There were rules of how much they could drink, and before drinking everyone had to make sure they had either a sober ride home, or a hotel room and a sober ride there. They also had to contact their Lance Corporal by 0830 the next morning confirming that both they and their date were safe at home or the hotel.
All in all it was an absolutely fabulous time and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I hope this post helps any of you who will go to a USMC Ball in the future and perhaps invite discussion for those of you who have been to one or more in the past. I’m sure each Ball is different, but I hope my comments provide at least a little general insight. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or further discussion about anything related to this post.
(P.S. I apologize for the very belated post. I wrote it the weekend after the dance, intended to post it then, didn’t get to it, decided to post it for Veterans day instead but forgot then as well.)