2008 USMC Birthday Ball

Incredibly, this was probably the best birthday ball we’ve been to—and I say incredibly because neither of us originally wanted to go!

Tom was actually in charge of planning his ball (in Jacksonville) before his PCS orders—and, truth be told, we were actually a bit relieved at not having to go. Honestly, it’s a wonderful tradition and something neat to attend, but usually (in our experience) just not worth the money: tickets are usually upwards of $40-$50pp, drinks are extra, and if it’s outside your city, you have the added expense of a hotel (or you have to drive home at midnight).

So we got to Michigan and didn’t think much about it. Hell, we didn’t think ANYTHING about it. That is until Tom started his new job, and was told attendance was mandatory. And tickets were $40pp. Wonderful—$80 we didn’t really plan on spending. But then he found out that included the overnight hotel stay! Wow, okay, that was cool. And luckily I had dresses that still fit (see earlier post) so I didn’t have that expense. And it was an open bar—so we didn’t have that expense, either. So we thought maybe this ball wouldn’t be too bad.

Well, as it turns out, because it’s a Recruiting Station, apparently they aren’t under the same rules and regulations as normal Marine Corps balls, in the respect that they can have sponsors and/or donations…which is why the tickets were so inexpensive, why the hotel night was included, why there was an open bar, why there were door prizes, and why there were 4-page full-color programs. 88| They had two major sponsors, plus about 30 minor sponsors. Very cool!

But before I get to the ceremony, I have to tell you about the hotel room. First, it was the Crown Plaza which sounds really ritzy, but it was an airport hotel so we weren’t expecting that much. But the pictures on the website were nice, and it was impressive when we pulled up. So we get to our room and go in and wow, nice big room—nice closet, bathroom, king bed, and sitting area:

And then we noticed an open door at the back of the room and we had NO idea what it could be:

Well, turns out, we were attached to a huge conference room/suite! 88|

We obviously had no need for it, hadn’t asked for it, and had no idea why we got that room. There was another connecting room, but that side was locked. We only wished we had a need for that room, because it was awesome! We just kept saying Wow, really? Wow. All this included in our $80 ticket price! Wheeeee! Of course we never used that room for anything.

And then, here is the best of our pre-ball in-room self-portraits:

We did get professional pics taken, but I looked yucky (not that I even look pregnant, which would be okay—I just look fat). I will post that one when we get the online version in a few days.

There were some differences in the event, compared to previous balls we attended, which we found interesting. Aside from the obvious free hotel stay and open bar, the smaller marine population (attended from all of southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio, for a total of maybe 100 marines) played a noticable part: Typically at a ball on a marine base, you have a LARGE contingent of marines/ranks/ages in attendance. Your “host” is usually a General, the special guest is usually another General, and the oldest and youngest marines (part of the cake ceremony) are usually like 92 and 18. This year, the host was a Major (one rank above Tom!), the special guest was enlisted (he was the recruiter of the year for the district), and the oldest marine couldn’t have been more than 46 (they didn’t tell the age, but said she enlisted in 1991 and I think you have to be in by age 30) and the youngest marine was probably 20 or so.

I also found the cake ceremony a bit…head-shaking. It’s customary for the cake to be rolled out by four marines. At the other balls we’ve been to, they roll out these monstrous (albeit fake) cakes with one real layer to actually cut a piece from. Well, they aren’t surprise-stripper-jumping-from-inside-the-cake huge, but they are probably a good 3′ long by 2′ wide by 1′ tall. Somewhat impressive to see rolled in on a cart by four marines. So last night, I see the marines walking the rolling cart in, and…where’s the cake? I couldn’t see it. OH! It’s a tiny half sheet cake! Heh. It worked perfectly fine, it was just NOT what I had been expecting!

The actual ceremony and speakers went quickly, the food was pretty good, and then it was time for dancing. I wasn’t feeling great (by this time it was like 9pm—just about my bedtime!) and of course I wasn’t feeling very social—I knew no one, while Tom had to flit about and meet all the marines he will be dealing with. (He basically works at the recruiting station headquarters, so he deals with all the recruiters from the entire district, so it was in his best interest to meet and talk with all of them.) I stayed by his side for some of it, then finally just told him to go do his business while I sat at the table. He also made sure to use full use of the open bar. :)

I did manage to dance a few songs so I wasn’t a total stick in the mud. In a small-world scenario, I also spent a little time talking to an old Grayling chum… :) One of the guys that works closely with Tom graduated from GHS in 1987 and we knew each other. Granted, I probably knew him more than he knew me (he was a senior and I was in 8th grade) but of course he remembered my dad and knew he had a daughter. (We knew about the coincidence before the ball, but this was really the first time we had to chat.) It was just funny thinking that 20 years ago he was the hot senior football player/phys ed assistant for my gym class…and who would have guessed we’d someday be at a Marine Corps Ball together? Here is Tom with Scott:

At midnight when the shindig ended, it was all I could do to force Tom up to bed (he still wanted to “make contact” with all the marines). But I wasn’t about to take the chance of actually having to drag his drunk ass up to the room and get him into bed. ;)

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