Marine veteran Shane Kruchten’s date to the Marine Corps Ball fell out, but he's still determined to honor the Marine Corps family.
After his wife, Krystine, had to undergo knee surgery and was unable to attend, the medically retired Purple Heart recipient issued a video request Oct. 27 for a Gold Star wife, mother, sister or daughter to be his date, with a commitment to pay all expenses to the Nov. 20 ball in San Diego.
Lance Cpl. Kruchten, with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was wounded in Iraq in 2003 and medically discharged in June 2005. He told Marine Corps Times that this is his way to honor those Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“He was my brother, whether I met him or not,” he said. “I want to be able to show thanks to [his] Gold Star family, to show them that the Marine Corps still cares about them 120 million percent, and that they’ll always be family.”
This year's birthday celebration marks 240 years since the 2nd Continental Congress resolved to form two battalions of naval infantry to support the American Revolution. Since that time, the United States Marine Corps has been involved in nearly every conflict in the nation’s history.
Lt. Gen. John Lejeune, the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps in 1921 established the official Nov. 10 date for the celebration in Order No. 47, and the Marine Corps Birthday now marks an annual opportunity to commemorate the “glories of its long and illustrious history” in memory of all those who have borne the name “Marine.”
Attention has shifted the spotlight in recent years as young Marines routinely broadcast viral video invites to celebrity crushes such as Mila Kunis or Justin Timberlake. Stars and Stripes reported that the spectacle this year “is going to be crazy” after mixed martial arts professional Ronda Rousey agreed to go with Lance Cpl. Jarrod Haschert and asked him to hook up some of her girlfriends as well.
Kruchten, an accomplished MMA fighter himself, who has the names of 19 fallen brothers from 3/5 tattooed on his back, said that these celebrity invites have zero relevance to the Marine Corps.
“I hate to say ‘back in my day,’ but you just wouldn’t do something like that,” he said. “The Marine Corps Ball was for Marines, spouses, and that was it; we protected it very well, especially being an infantry battalion.”
The Marine Corps does not have an official stance on the subject, but Gunnery Sgt. Brian Griffin, spokesman for Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald Green, told Marine Corps Times that there has been some confusion after a spoof Duffel Blog post in September claimed the sergeant major had prohibited the practice.
Kruchten said Sgt. Maj. Green served as inspiration to put the video together.
"I heard him say we need to remember that the Marine Corps Ball is to honor Marines and the heritage of the Marine Corps," he said. "A day later my wife blew her out her knee; she and I had already planned to go to the ball, so I said, 'Hey, do you mind if I bring a Gold Star mother to the ball?'"
Kruchten's wife, a fellow athlete who recently tore her ACL and meniscus, has been 100 percent supportive.
“I didn’t even get it out of my mouth and she goes ‘absolutely’,” he said. “She knows I have a hard time with survivor’s guilt, and what a better thing to do.”
Kruchten put the video together and bounced it off of Marine Corps friends before posting it. His inbox has been flooded since.
Along with dozens of requests to be his date, he said he’s also received an outpouring of support from Gold Star families and offers of donations to help pay the expenses of flying his date to San Diego.
“They’re saying, ‘It’s about time that someone remembers Gold Star families are still there and something is being done to recognize them,” Kruchten said. “This means a lot to me, and I hope this one little push will prompt other Marines to do this as well.”
He said his decision on which response to accept is still pending, but notes that there are more than 5,000 Gold Star mothers from Iraq and Afghanistan who do not have a date to the ball.
The most difficult part, Kruchten said, is finding the right wording to honor fallen Marines and their Gold Star families.
“It’s hard to come up with the correct way to write to these people,” he said. “But it’s really just making sure Marines always remember that past, present and future, Gold Star families are still part of the Marine Corps family.”
Kate Ford contributed to this report.