November 11, 2022
Marine Corps Ball
As prepared for delivery
” I would also like to acknowledge members of the United Kingdom’s military who are here this evening. There is a deep bond of affection and friendship between our two countries. You can see it clearest in the camaraderie between our two Militaries, who train and operate together here in the UK and around the world. Thank you to our British hosts for making us feel so welcome, and for all that you contribute to our very special relationship.”
Ambassador Jane Hartley: Good evening, friends, guests, and Marines!
I understand the Marines are officially 247 years old today. You wouldn’t know it looking at all of you! I speak for American diplomats everywhere when I say, we could not do our job without you. It is a great honor to be able to celebrate with you tonight.
Here at Embassy London, we have the oldest Marine detachment anywhere in the world. The first batch arrived in July of 1941, six months before the United States would formally enter the Second World War, and they’ve been here ever since…standing a post at our embassy…even now. Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge Corporal Lacey Harris, who is on duty tonight at the Embassy as we speak.
I would also like to acknowledge members of the United Kingdom’s military who are here this evening. There is a deep bond of affection and friendship between our two countries. You can see it clearest in the camaraderie between our two Militaries, who train and operate together here in the UK and around the world. Thank you to our British hosts for making us feel so welcome, and for all that you contribute to our very special relationship.
At the risk of offending our British hosts, I must also mention that we also have YOU to thank for the founding of our Marines. With revolution brewing, the first Marine recruitment drive took place in a Philadelphia pub called the Tun Tavern in the winter of 1775 … making the Marines older than the Republic itself. I know the Marines are pretty pleased by the fact that their Corps was founded in a bar. And the first captain and recruiter was none other than the owner of the pub!
But from that tiny outfit in a tavern, the Marines grew into one of the greatest fighting forces known to History. The tip of the spear. Always first into battle. Always on the toughest missions. Always faithful.
One of the most moving moments of my career as a diplomat was attending a ceremony honoring the 47th Royal Marine Commandos: a unit of British Marines who served alongside their American counterparts on D-Day. Looking at those cliffs; looking at what President Obama once described as “that tiny sliver of sand on which not just the direction of the war hung, but rather the course of human history:” you cannot help but feel a sense of awe for what Marines – both American and British – had done.
At that ceremony, I met an American Marine, a veteran of the Second World War, who lied about his age to get into the service, and was only 19 years old when our forces liberated Paris. He gave a speech that day, at 91 years old, and told the crowd of mostly French guests that he was ready to come back if they ever needed him. Talk about Semper Fi. I think that just about sums up the spirit of the Marines.
The beaches and battlefields, airfields and memorials all over Europe and the United Kingdom are a reminder of a simple truth: freedom isn’t free. It was secured by those who came before us, from the beaches of Normandy to the sands of Afghanistan. It is secured now by Marines standing guard in all corners of this wide world. And we must pass on to younger generations what the men and women of the Marine Corps have learned through heartache and sacrifice – that unless we constantly defend freedom, it can be lost so easily.
Just look at our world today. Right now, not fifteen-hundred miles from here, the Ukrainian people are engaged in a heroic defense of their homeland against Putin’s war of aggression. They did not shrink from battle, nor did they lose faith, against a larger and supposedly more capable foe. They have stood fast and suffered long, and ultimately, they have seized the initiative. I am deeply proud of the fact that the United States and the United Kingdom have rallied the world to support the Ukrainian cause, providing more security assistance than any country or group of countries – combined.
We will continue to work in lockstep with our UK partners to provide the support our friends in Ukraine need to finish the fight. As we celebrate our Marines tonight, let us remember those who are still fighting to defend their freedom.
In closing, let me give a very special thanks to the Marines who are here tonight. All the Marines – please stand up if you are able. Marines: You do a hard job. You put your lives on the line for our freedom. You serve your country with great honor and distinction. And, by god, you deserve a birthday!
So everyone, please join me in a round of applause to wish our Marines a very happy 247th birthday.