It is ‘probable’ that Corps birthday balls will be limited by COVID-19, top enlisted Marine says

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Every year around the Marine Corps’ Nov. 10 birthday, Marines around the world gather to celebrate the history and honor of the Corps while recognizing the young Marines who make up its future.

Parties rage from Las Vegas to San Diego to Okinawa, Japan, while more subdued celebrations are held by forward-deployed Marines in the Middle East. Everywhere, a birthday cake is cut and the birthday message from the 13th Marine Corps Commandant Gen. John A. Lejeune is read.

But in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic the celebrations may face new restrictions, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black warned Friday in a message posted on Facebook.

“Marines, Sailors, and family members, although several months away, it is probable that many COVID-19 restrictions will still be in place come November 10, 2020 limiting the size and scope of unit Birthday Ball Ceremonies,” Black wrote in the message, first reported by Task & Purpose.

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No specific restrictions relating to the ball have yet been issued by the Marine Corps, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joseph Butterfield told Marine Corps Times in a Monday email.

The purpose of the memo was to “to distinguish elements required for properly conducting a Marine Corps Birthday celebration from those that have become associated with standard Marine Corps birthday celebrations,” Butterfield said.

In the Facebook post Black outlined the four elements required to hold a proper Marine Corps birthday celebration: holding a formation, cutting a cake, recognizing the oldest and youngest Marines at the celebration and finally reading Lejeune’s birthday message.

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“All of these requirements can be met while still following COVID-19 social distancing and other requirements,” Black said.

He also wanted to remind Marines that the birthday celebration can be memorable even without the raucous setting Marines may have become accustomed to.

The top enlisted Devil Dog told a story about a Marine Corps birthday he celebrated as a 1st sergeant with Gulf Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines while deployed to Iraq.

“A week into offensive operations, my company commander and I patrolled through the streets of Husabayh to each platoon’s defensive position,” Black wrote in a memo attached to the Facebook post.

There Black, alongside the company commander, held a small Marine formation by flashlight, cut an MRE pound cake, presented a piece to the oldest and youngest Marine in the platoon and read Lejeune’s birthday message.

While moving from celebration to celebration through the night Black said he was reminded of what made the Corps unique among the branches of the U.S. military: “being with Marines, accomplishing the mission and staying true to our customs and courtesies, even in the midst of our shared adversity.”

“Until we can once again celebrate in the manner in which we have become accustomed, to safely, smartly, and properly honor the birth of our Corps while taking necessary steps to protect our people, is what will matter most this November,” Black said in the Facebook post.

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