Last night I spent the Marine Corps’ 236th birthday at the San Diego Yacht Club. It was an intimate black tie affair in a breezy, open, dark-wooden room overlooking a dazzling harbor attended by hero-Marines that bled on Saipan and Iwo Jima, fought through the Chosin, repelled Viet Cong during Tet, and sustained terrible wounds from violent skirmishes with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s RC South.
During the cocktail reception I sipped on a young Dewar’s and listened to old stories. And I marveled. Marines of all ages stood, soaring, like granite statues in black tuxedoes telling war stories and laughing and remembering. I tried to memorize each detail of the landscape. Each story, each handshake, each ‘Happy Birthday Marine’ was for me a nod from the great hoplites I have been reading about since I was a child.
The evening’s super narrative was elegant and palpable and it was this: here gathered to celebrate a birthday bigger than any one soul are but a few humble ambassadors of America’s finest tribe, Marines, who, after playing with the House’s money for all these years, pause to drink and dine and let their eyes and hearts swell.
I always revel in the unspoken, all-felt storyline…
Golden city lights poured through open glass doors into glasses of rocked-scotch and bounced from Silver Star to Silver Star to Silver Star worn on marvelous black tuxedos by silver haired warriors; this light instantly reflecting and refracting among dozens of Naval Academy rings and Eagle Globe and Anchor pins that swirled the light as hands waived and waived depicting stories of war days, past.
It’s hard to write this without sounding romantic; but Marines are romantic figures, and the Marine Corps a romantic service. Romantic in that the execution of each human action is deliberate and from the heart, transcendent.
Transcendent discipline. Transcendent violence. Transcendent sacrifice. Transcendent love.
On this Veteran’s Day I’m reminded by those Marines I drank with last night just how important they are to our country’s survival. I am humbled by their sacrifices, their courage, and their transcendence.
My generation has a great deal to learn from these men and women. From those who have spent all these years doing their best, playing with the House’s money.