241st Marine Corps Birthday Ball

U.S. Marines present the flags at the Fourth of July reception

Remarks by the Ambassador
Managua, November 18, 2016

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for joining us tonight as we celebrate the 241st birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Let me begin by reading a message from Secretary of State John Kerry:

On behalf of the Department of State and all our employees serving overseas and at home, I offer my warmest and best wishes to the United States Marine Corps on its 241st birthday. There are few institutions in our country older than America itself and the Corps is one of them. Born in Philadelphia some eight months before Independence was officially declared, the first Marines formed ranks to fight for our nation’s birth – not yet in air – but most definitely on land and sea. All Americans and, in fact, people everywhere who value freedom, have ample reason to be grateful to the Marines.

But at the State Department, we have special cause for thanks because of the detachments who stand a watchful guard at our embassies and other diplomatic outposts across the globe. We simply could not carry out America’s foreign policy without that brave blue line.

One of the great privileges of my job has been the opportunity to visit with Marines and to thank you personally wherever I could, not only in our embassies and consulates, but also at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand, in Kandahar, Kabul,  Baghdad, and Fallujah.

Part of a diplomat’s job is to minimize the need for members of our armed forces to venture into harm’s way, but that job is made easier by the knowledge – and the knowledge of potential adversaries – that if force is required to defend America, the job will be entrusted to the best-led, most capable, and most professional troops the world has ever seen.
As the men and women of the United States Marine Corps, you embody the very finest of what America stands for. You deserve our admiration and gratitude today and every day. Congratulations and may the coming year be one of health, growth, and success for you all.

Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fidelis!

Personally, I always look forward to The Ball and to the opportunity to recognize and honor the Marines that play such a vital role in ensuring the safety and security of our Embassies worldwide. Many of us here tonight are intimately familiar with the demands that service to our country can place on us and our families. We have left our homes, deployed to foreign lands, and faced a variety of hardships and challenges.

We do so hoping that, in some way, our work will help make the world a safer and better place.
But we are also very aware that our Marines, defend our Embassies and, along with their colleagues in every branch of service, bear the added weight of defending our country, of protecting its citizens.

And they carry the weight of that duty at great risk to their own safety and the expense of their personal comfort.
We, both as individuals and a Nation, are the beneficiaries of their service, their sacrifice, and their commitment to excellence.

And we are grateful.

Distinguidos invitados, quiero agradecerles por acompañarnos a celebrar el 241 aniversario de los Marinos de los Estados Unidos. Muchos de ustedes están esta noche aquí con sus parejas. Yo crecí en una familia militar.

Mi papá estaba orgulloso de ser un servidor público, pero también sé que trabajar en el servicio militar requiere sacrificios para toda la familia. En la Embajada, nos sentimos orgullosos de nuestro pequeño pero excelente destacamento de Marinos y nos complace que ustedes como nuestros invitados estén con nosotros para disfrutar algunas de las tradiciones especiales relacionadas con la celebración del aniversario de los Marinos.

I want to take a moment to thank you, our outstanding Marine Detachment here in Managua. I want to tell you how very thankful I am for your superb work and loyal service to our country. Every day, you present yourselves as shining examples of the courage and dedication that rests at the heart and soul of the Marine Corps.

And while you may find yourselves distanced from family and far from home, I want you know that we – all of us at the Mission – are deeply indebted to you and so very glad to have you as part of our community. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of the wonderful Marines I’ve served with at various embassies.

And while the faces have changed, what remains consistent in these impressive young men and women is their strength of character and their incredible capacity to overcome adversity. Another thing you recognize when you spend any length of time talking with Marines, is that they have a history filled with amazing stories.

One such story – and one I think showcases that capacity for overcoming adversity – is that of the Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 at the Battle of Midway. The Battle of Midway took place over three days, from June 4-7, 1942. It is was a clear and decisive victory for the United States over the Japanese Navy and many consider it the turning point of the Campaign in the Pacific during World War II. Squadron 241’s contributions to that victory provide a remarkable example of the steadfastness and resolve of the Marines.

The Battle began on June 4, when Japan dispatched aircraft carriers to carry out a surprise attack against U.S. Forces at Midway. What they didn’t know was that the U.S. had intercepted their message and were waiting for them. The pilots of Squadron 241 had limited training and no combat experience. They faced a Japanese Air Fleet comprised of some of the greatest pilots in the world. And, they received the planes they would use at Midway only nine days before the battle began.

Their first attack on the Japanese carriers, on the morning of June 4, resulted in the loss of eight aircraft and the death of their squadron leader, Major Lofton R. Henderson. Still they pressed on. The 241 returned to action later that same day, taking on more losses, again with no success.  And still they pressed on.

The following day, the 241 took to the sky once more. And this time, despite heavy pursuit from Japanese fighters and the endless assault anti-aircraft fire, they successfully sank the Japanese Heavy Cruiser “Mikuma.” By the end of the Battle of Midway, over fifty percent of the fighter pilots and gunners of the 241 where declared Killed in Action or Missing in Action.

Major Henderson was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. Through the courage and sacrifice of those brave Marines; through their ability to overcome adversity, the United States secured its most important naval victory
of World War II.

Tonight, as we celebrate the 241st Birthday of the Marine Corps, we remember with gratitude those who serve without question to fight for and protect our freedoms.

Happy 241st Birthday Marines,
Semper Fidelis!