At every Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebration, there is an empty table. The table is there to honor fallen Marines. It is a stark reminder of the sacrifices that have been made for this country and for the Marine Corps. With the continuing losses being faced by our military in Iraq and Afghanistan weighing heavily on the minds of the American people, General James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, has directed a change in the protocol of formal Marine Corps functions. The following is an excerpt from his order. The format is typical of an official Marine Corps order.
â€œ1. TO BE A MARINE IS TO BE A PART OF SOMETHING THAT REPRESENTS THE BEST OF OUR NATION. IT IS TO ACCEPT A WAY OF LIFE THAT EMBODIES SELFLESS SERVICE – TO DEFEND THOSE WHO CANNOT DEFEND THEMSELVES, TO THRIVE IN THE HARDSHIP AND SACRIFICE EXPECTED OF AN ELITE WARRIOR CLASS, TO MARCH TO THE SOUND OF THE GUNS, AND TO ABLY SHOULDER THE HERITAGE CREATED BY THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE US.
2. ONLY A FEW AMERICANS CHOOSE THE DANGEROUS AND NECESSARY WORK OF FIGHTING OUR NATIONS ENEMIES. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THAT CHOICE, SOME HAVE PAID THE UTIMATE PRICE, JOINING THE HONOR ROLL OF HEROES WHO BUILT THE NOBLE LEGACY OF OUR CORPS. FOR THOSE OF US WHO CARRY ON THAT LEGACY, IT IS OUR OBLIGATION TO HONOR THOSE FALLEN MARINES. AS MARINES GATHER IN CELEBRATION OF OUR HISTORY, WE GATHER IN THE SHADOWS OF GREATNESS – THOUGH OUR FALLEN CAN NO LONGER PARTICIPATE IN OUR TRADITIONS, THEY WILL ALWAYS BE A PART OF US AND WHO WE ARE.
3. THEREFORE, I AM DIRECTING THAT ALL UNIT MESS NIGHTS AND MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY BALL CELEBRATIONS INCLUDE WORTHY AND APPROPRIATE TRIBUTES TO OUR FALLEN COMRADES. SUBSEQUENT CHANGES TO THE DRILL AND CEREMONIES MANUAL WILL REFLECT THIS REQUIREMENT. THROUGH MEANINGFUL REMEMBRANCE, THE SACRIFICES OF “THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE” WILL NOT BECOME DISTANT MEMORIES, BUT WILL LIVE ALWAYS IN OUR WARRIOR CULTURE.
4. SEMPER FIDELIS, JAMES T. CONWAY, GENERAL, U.S. MARINE CORPSâ€
Tradition is at the heart of the Marine Corps. Their traditions and their legacy are what inspire the Marines of today to such greatness. Marines are drilled in weapons and combat, but they are also drilled in the legacy of the Corps. They know the names of famous Marines as well as they know the names of their platoon commanders. The tradition of honor, courage and commitment make the Marine Corps a true band of brothers and sisters in arms. General Conwayâ€™s directive is but one more example of the importance the Marine Corps places on remembering its past to preserve its future.