MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Old stories and good times were shared at each table with sporadic laughter of remembrance from veterans that served as far back as World War II. Commissioned and enlisted Marines, sailors and soldiers celebrated the 239th Marine Corps birthday, Nov. 1, 2014.
At the Mameluke Officers’ Club, a Marine Corps retiree ball was held for veterans that live in the area. Among those attending were Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, Combat Center Commanding General, and Sgt. Maj. Karl Villalino, Combat Center sergeant major.
“It’s wonderful to see a group of retired [service members] come together in one room,” said retired Force Master Chief Petty Officer Louis Green who was a guest at the retiree ball. “The base has been very welcoming to me since my retirement in 1987, and I think it has been for all the retirees in this room.”
Sgt. Maj. Ray Wilburn, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, who joined the Marine Corps in 1939, sat alongside various other commissioned and enlisted retirees from the Marine Corps, Navy and Army also in attendance. The event is held annually for retirees to celebrate the festivities of the Marine Corps birthday as they did while on active duty.
“I have been coming to this ceremony for the past 10 years,” said retired Maj. Jerry Fabricus, guest, retiree ball. “It’s a grand time to see all of our old time friends and re-live our old stories and get pumped up by them again.”
As the Marines Hymn was played, pride and nostalgia could be seen among the retirees.
“The whole evening was fantastic, but my favorite part was the playing of the Marines Hymn,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Ray Wilburn, guest, retiree ball. “It brought me back to 1939 when it was the first song that I heard when I had just gotten out of boot camp.”
The retiree birthday ball has been hosted aboard the Combat Center for the past 10 years with the average amount of attendees being approximately 120 guests. The ball is open to all hands that have retired from any branch of the military and live around the Combat Center.
Many of the service members have been out of the Marine Corps or their respective branch of service for many years, but the saying ‘Once a Marine, Always a Marine’ was ever present with the welcoming nature of the birthday ball.