GLENDALE SPRINGS-“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” the saying goes.
No matter the era, no matter the war, serving and past members of the elite service say it’s the trials, traditions and esprit de corps that makes the United States Marine Corps what it is.
“These guys – no matter when they were in – we’ve all been to boot, a lot have seen the same things and chewed the same dirt and a lot have faced the same difficulties after they leave the service,” Jefferson’s Tom Northrop, a USMC veteran of Vietnam has said in previous interviews. “That’s what brings us all together.”
The service can trace its origins to Philadelphia, Pa’s Tun Tavern where, on Nov. 10, 1775, the first of the nation’s Continental Marines were recruited.
Each year, Marines worldwide celebrate the date with birthday balls and celebrations.
This year, that included Ashe County native Sgt. Logan Orr at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and dozens of retired servicemen who gathered at the Blue Ridge Dinner Theater in Glendale Springs to celebrate the 241st birthday of the Marine Corps.
The local birthday gala was orchestrated by the 1389 High Country Detachment of the USMC League.
Over a backdrop of stars and stripes and freshly prepared buffet food, retired Marines and their affiliates gathered in the dinning hall to reflect on what it truly means to be a U.S. Marine and to honor those brothers lost while serving their nation.
U.S. Marines’ memorabilia and keepsakes from past tours of duty lined the room in a lead-up to the night’s special speakers and presentations.
The ceremony began with a moment of a silence and to remember those servicemen who were killed or were reported missing during the line of duty.
Family members who lost loved ones were escorted to the front of the theater by detachment members as the names of the deceased were read aloud. Each solemn faced family member then placed a dog tag at the end of a ceremonial service rifle to commemorate local fallen brothers-in-arms.
A bell was run for each fallen soldier and a special reading of, “I am a Marine,” was held just before dinner.
Retired servicemen eagerly await the ceremony’s arrival each year. Prior to the dinner, many of the retired Jarheads took turns regaling each other in stories and catching up with each other with the events of the past year.
Along with remembering the formation of the USMC, the dinner is also a chance to socialize.
“We call it a ball, but there isn’t much dancing,” said retired servicewoman Carol Pollack earlier this week. “We have to start it early (5 p.m.) because most of us are older and don’t want to stay out that late.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.