I departed State College on November 20 for Greenville, North Carolina. After eight hours of sightseeing from the back of a Ford Fusion, I checked in at the City Hotel and Bistro with my friends Nicole Gross and Melissa Fello. The three of us would be attending the 1/8 Battalion Marine Corps Ball that night.
The ball happens in celebration of the Marine Corps birthday November 10. The continental Marines were established on this date in 1775 and the ball takes place in recognition yearly. The entire Marine Corps could not celebrate at the same time and place, so the battalions celebrate different days throughout the month of November.
None of us had attended a Marine Corps Ball before tonight. Nicole’s date was her boyfriend of fifteen months, Cody Pilch, while Melissa and I attended with two friends, Kevin Strange and Cody Scott. They are all stationed at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The girls and I began to get ready for the ball while awaiting our dates’ arrival. We all curled our hair in various fashions, prepped our faces with evening makeup, and slipped on our gowns. The event’s dress code could be compared to a grown-up prom, with floor length gowns less flashy than you may have chosen in high school. Melissa’s was pearly white, Nicole’s navy blue, and mine black with a lace neckline.
A knock hit the door. Hello, Marines. Our strapping dates had arrived at our hotel twenty minutes before the event began. The men were in their dress uniforms commonly known as Dress Blues, which are only worn for formal and ceremonial occasions. And they looked great. Time for us to put on the finishing touches and walk down the street to Greenville Convention Center for the ceremony to begin.
Gold earrings, check. Nicole’s black handbag, check. Melissa’s dress zipper breaking, check? The worst possible thing to happen ten minutes before departure happened. The side-zipper on Melissa’s dress busted after a forced attempt to free it from a snag. WHAT NOW? I frantically ran to the front desk asking for safety pins, returning only with a strip of Velcro and a few paper clips. This won’t do. We had a single safety pin to work with thanks to one of the Marines, so we pinned it high insuring there would be no accidental slips up top. We can just pretend the open side of her dress is supposed to be there. It’ll be dark anyway.
We paired up with our dates and walked to the convention center, where we checked in and received a table assignment. A giant ballroom was filled with hundreds of tables, each dressed in a white tablecloth and topped with fancily folded napkins and properly placed china. In the center of the carpeted room was a wooden dance floor. Three huge screens hung from the ceiling at the front of the room, and projected on each was the official United States Marine Corps emblem; the eagle, globe and anchor. The finishing touch? Handsome Marines accompanied by women in all sorts of gorgeous gowns. The ball was the epitome of simple sophistication.
A ceremony began at 6:30. The traditional cake of the ball was wheeled in and all were asked to rise as Marines carried in the American and Marine Corps flags. At this moment, we paid respects to the flags and the fallen. The ceremony continued with a speech given by the oldest Marine of the unit, who then used a sword to cut the cake. The oldest Marine gets cake first, symbolizing tradition and knowledge. The cake is passed to the youngest Marine of the unit to represent the passing of knowledge to future generations of the Marine Corps. Everything they do is meant to represent something great and be a tradition carried on.
The ceremony commenced, and socializing continued as dinner was served. Juicy steak, chicken, potatoes and beans were accompanied by water, sweet tea, and alcoholic beverages for those of age. With our bellies full, it was time to dance.
The music included 2000’s hits like Usher’s “Yeah” and the Cha-Cha Slide, mixed with a few Elvis oldies and spicy Latin tunes. Sounds too funky for fun, but the mix was great for keeping us moving and dancing all sorts of ways. Melissa managed to keep her broken gown in place as she moved. Cody and I pretended we knew how to tango as he spun me around, and we all got down with the “Wobble”. Slightly sweaty and out of breath, the night slowed with Alicia Keys “If I Ain’t Got You,” my first slow dance since high school prom, and the military ball was finished.
A night at the military ball was filled with Marine Corps birthday fun and honored the men and women serving, recognizing the sacrifices they have made for the United States. A big thank you for your dedication to service and knowing how to show three young ladies a wonderful evening.
Photo provided by Taylor Fowler