Several hundred people gathered together at Branson’s beautiful Chateau on the Lake Spa and Convention Center on Monday, November 10th to celebrate the 233rd Birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
In attendance were more than 100 Marines who ranged from a 19 year old, just-out-of-boot-camp private to an 87 years-young veteran of the horrific World War II battle on Iwo Jima.
Whether active duty or reservists or long retired, these Marines assembled to reflect upon the proud history and heritage of the Corps and to, once again, experience the inexorable bond that Marines share when in each other’s presence.
Lt Col Oliver North (USMC-ret) delivered an electrifying keynote address which paid tribute to the young men and women whom have made up the backbone of the Marine Corps since its founding.
North said “These brave and courageous Marines, through time, embody the very best of what it means to be an American. Their dedication to mission, duty and service to country, is the spirit by which we have kept ours a free nation. They are true heroes.”
The event, which included a social hour, dinner and a dance, was highlighted by the highly moving Marine Corps Birthday Ceremony.
A large, beautifully decorated ceremonial cake, escorted into the hall by four U.S. Marines, drew everyone’s rapt attention as it made its way to the front of the room. Leading the escorts was Corporal Eddie R. Beesley, who on August 31, 1965 near Chu Lai in Vietnam, was grievously wounded and lost his legs. Corporal Beesley, author and motivational speaker, carried a Non-Commissioned Officer’s Sword and handed it to Major Shannon Johnson, Commanding Officer, Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, Fourth Marine Division. Maj. Johnson cut the first piece of cake for the guest of honor, Col. North. The second piece was cut for Bert Clayton, the oldest Marine Present, and the third piece was presented to Mr. Clayton who then handed it to the youngest Marine present, a symbolic handing down of the tradition of the Corps to its new members.
Other notable moments included the video greetings from General James T. Conway, 34th and current Commandant of the Marine Corps and the remembrance of the Table of Honor for POWs and MIAs still unaccounted for. The Warrior’s Cross, as depicted by the boots, sandbags, rifle and helmet, were displayed to remember Fallen Marines and to reflect upon the potential sacrifice facing members of the Marine Corps.
Lt. Col. North, who graciously signed hundreds of copies of his newest book, ‘American Heroes: In the Fight Against Radical Islam’, was presented a beautifully hand-crafted knife as a gift from the event sponsors Branson.com and Branson Tourism Center. Lt. Col. North was also told that an American flag has been flying in his honor on Branson’s Avenue of Freedom.
Branson.com and Branson Tourism Center also presented a custom designed, commemorative Challenge Coin (pictured above) to all of the U.S. Marines present.
From a grateful nation- Happy 233rd Birthday United States Marine Corps!