CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan --
Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, celebrated the Marine Corps’ 236th birthday at their Marine Corps Ball, Dec. 1.
The ball was attended by more than 400 Marines, Sailors and guests, as well as the guest of honor, Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams, Director of Marine Corps Staff.
“We are here to celebrate 236 years of a proud tradition that has been carried on since the founding of our Corps,” said Williams. “I am glad to be here for the Marine Corps birthday with the same battalion I had the privilege of commanding years ago.”
The birthday celebration was planned and executed by Marines and Sailors of the battalion, with Sgt. Krista Jones, postal chief, CLB-31, as the lead planner.
“It was truly a team effort,” said Jones. “This success comes as a result of a lot of hard work by many people. The pay-off is when Marines, Sailors and civilians can enjoy the ceremony, dinner, dancing and camaraderie.”
At the end of the traditional cake-cutting ceremony, something unexpected happened.
Gunnery Sgt. Kenge Herron, battalion gunnery sergeant, CLB-31, invited his unsuspecting wife to join him at center stage in renewing their marriage vows.
“I have been with the 31st MEU ever since I’ve been married and never had the time to have a proper wedding ceremony, so there was no better time or place to do this than at the birthday ball,” said Huron. “My wife entered my life while I was with this unit, this honors both our military service, our sacrifice and our marriage.”
Lt. Barrett Craig, CLB-31 chaplain, led the couple in their vows in front of two rows of Marines with their swords at the ready.
“As Marines and Sailors, keeping our relationships in their proper order is essential for personal and unit success, and the order of those relationships must be prioritized – God, Family, Corps,” said Craig. “When it comes to our unit readiness, our family readiness must be strong. If the health of our family is not strong, as we all know, it will adversely affect our job performance and ultimately mission accomplishment.”
Craig went on to say that the Marine Corps Ball is the pinnacle of when Marines and Sailors in the unit celebrate the value of what they do for the sake of the freedoms Americans enjoy, celebrating the sacrifices made to ensure freedom is secured.
“Doing a renewal of vows at the Marine Corps Ball gives us the opportunity to recognize in front of all the Marines and their guests that we cannot fulfill our mission without taking care of our families,” said Craig. “Renewing marital vows is renewing our first commitment to our family, so that we can then adequately fulfill our secondary mission of being a service member. This is a commitment that our top level of leadership at CLB-31 has made, putting families in their proper place of importance, and a commitment which I fully support.”
This is the first renewal of vows at a Marine Corps birthday celebration to his knowledge, said Craig. The newly-recommitted couple marched underneath the Marines’ sword arch to the sound of tremendous applause from the assembled service members and guests, which highlighted the commands emphasis on family readiness.
The commanding officer of CLB-31, Lt. Col. William Arick, spoke about the importance of family unity, emphasizing all that the families endure to support their Marines through continual deployments with the MEU.
“Our families deserve the most sincere appreciation for what they do and for persevering through it all,” Arick said. “The Marine Corps looks like a glorious life, full of adventure and excitement, and it is, but it comes with a price. Please accept my personal thank you to all the family members here.”
The importance of family to mission accomplishment was also emphasized by Williams, as he commented that this day was also his wedding anniversary.
The Marine Corps birthday celebration was cause for the Marines to pause to remember their history, and how they now carry the tradition onward.
“Be proud because each and every one of you is part of this illustrious history,” said Arick. “If any of you wonders what it must be like to be a heroic Marine that we all read about in the history books, know that you are exactly the same as those that went before us. You are today’s Marines.”
The fast-paced and continually forward-deployed mission of CLB-31 and the 31st MEU was acknowledged by the guest of honor during inspirational remarks.
“There is always constant change and flexibility required that comes with being part of a MEU, that is just part of the 31st MEU’s mission,” said Williams. “You all are doing great work out here. You are forward deployed 365 days a year and I am proud of you.”
Operating at sea with the MEU means the Marines and Sailors of CLB-31 gain valuable amphibious experience.
“Marines go aboard ships, set sail, and head to the far flung places of the earth to do our nation’s bidding,” said Williams. “You in CLB-31 understand the Marine Corps’ expeditionary and amphibious abilities, and excel at it.”
Despite the demanding schedule and frequent missions away from home, it was clear the celebrating Marines remained committed to the mission at hand, just as the Marines have throughout history.
“One thing that has not changed is the ethos and the purpose and the camaraderie of the Corps, what it means to be a United States Marine,” said Williams. “When our nation has needed us, the Marines have been ready.”
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit remains America’s force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, and is the only continually forward-deployed MEU.