Last Tuesday, HBS’s former members of the Marine Corps and other Armed Services hosted a celebration in honor of the 228th birthday of the U.S. Marines. Fellow HBS students, family, and friends joined with former service members to experience the tradition, pomp, and circumstance of this time-honored military ceremony.
The annual birthday celebration is a tradition that Marines around the world have commemorated with a formal ceremony since 1921, regardless of geography or situation, both in times of peace and in times of war. The birthday recognizes November 10, 1775, the date that Congress resolved to raise two battalions of Continental Marines, making the organization we know today as the U.S. Marine Corps older than the United States itself. There is perhaps no organization that better upholds its motto, “Semper Fidelis”, (Latin for “always faithful”) than the Marine Corps.
From a civilian perspective, the ceremony both demystified and humanized the former members of the Marine Corps and the unique experiences that each one brings to HBS. Men and women in uniform, though fairly intimidating in appearance, eagerly welcomed guests to the celebration while a bagpiper played festively in the background. Students who had never before experienced a formal military ceremony
commented that the event provided a better insight into why the Marines have such intense pride in their organization.
Kurt Scherer (OI), who spent more than nine years in the Marine Corps before coming to HBS, opened the formal ceremony with welcoming remarks that reflected on recent world events, “As we look back on 2003, we can see can see that it was a period of national definition and immense global change. Therefore, it is both fitting and appropriate that we recognize and celebrate the role Marines played during that dramatic transformation. As the United States continued its war against terrorism, the Marines played a crucial role in the implementation and execution of our national defense strategy.”
On a more somber note, Kurt also recognized the costs of accomplishing these deeds, “Many made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, and tonight we honor their memory… Even as we speak, many thousands of Marines in uniform stand watch over us so that our families may live in peace.”
Following the opening address, a booming call to “SOUND ATTENTION!” announced the entrance of the four-member color guard who marched into the center of the Williams Room. In precise formation, color bearers carried the U.S. Flag and the Marine Corps flag, flanked by a rifleman on either side. Observers saluted respectfully during the playing of the national anthem.
In accordance with tradition, Kevin Kelley (NC) then read Marine Corps Order 47, the original birthday tidings delivered by General John A. Lejeune in 1921, and the Commandant’s Message, issued by General Hagee on November 10, 2003.
Upon the conclusion of these formalities, keynote speaker Josh Collins (MBA ’96) delivered a rousing address, offering sound advice to both former Marines and non-military HBS students. Collins, who spent seven years in the Marine Corps before attending HBS, is now a Senior Vice President at Lehman Brothers, and he spoke candidly about his transition to first HBS and then the private sector.
To the former Marines at HBS, Collins advised, “Do not feel alone.” With colorful examples from his own beginnings at HBS, Josh assured the Marines that they were likely not the only students lost in FRC. Collins provided equally humorous and pragmatic advice for making a successful transfer to the private sector. “Anticipate the questions that employers won’t or can’t ask,” said Collins. Giving an example, he encouraged former Marines to proactively discuss with employers questions such as: “Isn’t it weird that you used to lead 145 men in combat and now you’re in charge of this computer and a mouse?”
Addressing the larger audience, Collins encouraged students to make the most of their time at HBS. He reflected that at HBS, “You have the opportunity to build a network of business and social contacts that you will have for the rest of your life.”
While Chris Rogers (NI) expertly cut the birthday cake with a sword, Cordell Bennigson (NC) explained the significance of the cake cutting ceremony. The first piece is served to the oldest Marine present, “in recognition of the contributions of the Marines that preceded us and left to us a legacy of honor and tradition.” Lieutenant Colonel Mike Denning, a National Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, accepted this honor. The second piece was served to Corporal Michael Brunelle, the youngest Marine present, “as a symbol of continuity…a promise for the future that our proud heritage will be carried forward.”
Last but not least, attendees representing sister services of the U.S. Marine Corps offered toasts to the Navy, the Army, the Air Force, and the Allies. The singing of The Marine’s Hymn concluded the formal activities of the evening, leaving guests to enjoy one tradition well understood by service members and civilians alike: eating, drinking and laughing together.