Combat Center News
Twentynine Palms Logo
Twentynine Palms, California
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Photo Information

Marine wives and girlfriends shop through complimentary dresses Saturday, during the first Belle of the Ball event at the Community Center on base. The event taught formal affair etiquette to wives and girlfriends who may have never been exposed to black tie events. It also familiarized them with the Marine Corps customs and history regarding the Birthday Ball. (Official USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis / Released)

Photo by LCpl. Lauren Kurkimilis

Belle of the Ball

28 Sep 2012 | LCpl. Lauren Kurkimilis Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is a long-standing tradition and a magnificent affair. For Megan Drake, it will be unlike anything she has ever experienced.


Megan Drake is going to be treated like a celebrity. She’s going to be the center of attention as a guest at one of the most prestigious and internationally celebrated events this year.

Actually, it has been happening every year since 1925.

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball, a long-standing and revered tradition, is celebrated world-wide by Marines young and old. In a service known for taking its customs seriously, the ball ranks up there at the highest.

New dresses, new shoes, a new hairstyle and painted nails.

For a girl, just preparing for the event is part of the fun.

A Night to Remember

Megan and her husband, Pfc. Calib Drake, grew up in neighboring Kansas towns, were high school sweethearts and are about to embark upon their first Marine Corps Ball together. The most formal event they ever attended was prom, which was special, but most certainly not black tie.

“I’ve really only ever been to prom,” said Megan. “But that’s so different from a formal ball. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m really excited, but it still feels a little overwhelming.”

Once a year, not only do Marines get to celebrate their proud heritage during the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, but they get to share that honor with those closest to them. They enjoy the rare opportunity to dress to the nines and enjoy an evening of celebration and elegance.

“I love dressing nice, and I want to make a good impression,” Megan said. “So I’m just going to try to be as prepared as possible.”

Linking Up with Like Minds

Ceremony, tradition, and etiquette are key elements that bring the Marine Corps Birthday Ball to life. The Lifestyle Insights Networking Knowledge Skill organization better aquatints families with the Marine Corps by holding events like Belle of the Ball.

Like a mother prepares her daughter for a coming-out cotillion, the L.I.N.K.S. mentors guided the women through the ball experience. They shared their personal accounts of their time at the ball and passed down knowledge.

“For me, the most significant thing about the ball is the tradition,” said Sharon Altemoos, Marine wife and mother. “I’ve been around the Marine Corps my whole life, but when they play the “Marines Hymn” as the cake comes in, it still brings a tear to my eye. It’s that sense of pride, integrity and tradition that makes the Corps so special. The ball is our chance, as the supporters of Marines, to celebrate our life of honor, courage and commitment with our Marines.”

The Belle of the Ball event was put together to give the women who have never been to the ball before the opportunity to see what’s expected before they get there. The women learned Marine Corps tradition and history, social and table etiquette and what is considered proper ball attire.

“Just walking in (to the Belle of the Ball event) and seeing how the tables were set up showed just how proper the ball is going to be,” Megan said. “It was so elaborate.”

Thirteen tables were arranged in the large ball room. They were placed with proper table settings and ornate centerpieces. Belle of the Ball was designed to show how things will look and play out during the night of the ball. There was a guest speaker, presentation of the colors and cutting of the cake. The event was completed with a ball gown giveaway.

“Going there helped me out a lot,” Megan said. “Now, at least, I sort of know what to expect and I won’t be completely surprised or unprepared.”

Ribbons and Curls

Megan has most of her pre-ball preparations planned out and is approaching it with a very do-it-yourself attitude.

“I know how I’m going to do my hair, and I’m going to do my nails myself,” Megan said. “I have to wait to find the right dress before I pick a color, though.”

Megan searched through the hundreds of free dresses offered at the Belle of the Ball event, unable to find the right one. Her hunt continues.

“A lot of the dresses (at Belle of the Ball) were really nice,” Megan said. “I just want to make sure I wear one that’s perfect.”

Being uprooted from home in support of a love one isn’t easy. The Marine Corps Birthday Ball allows those closest to Marines to show their appreciation and support of the Corps.

“It isn't just about dressing up and going out though,” Megan said. “I’m excited to go with him to his first ball. It's going to be special for both of us.”

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms