Citing an “abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger is canceling his Marine Corps birthday ball in the nation’s capital, a Marine Corps spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
It’s a move echoed across the Corps.
For the second consecutive year, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted Marine Corps birthday celebrations, generally held on or around the Corps’ birthday on Nov. 10. In 2020 most units in the Marine Corps had to adjust birthday celebrations, limit travel plans or outright cancel them.
“Many commanders” around the Marine Corps have decided to “forego” in-person celebrations of the Marine Corps birthday, Headquarters Marine Corps Spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce told Marine Corps Times in an email.
“Approval authority for gatherings of greater than 50 individuals resides with each OSD Component head and may be delegated no lower than to his or her Principal Deputy,” Bruce wrote.
This means Marine Corps birthday ball celebrations would need to be approved in advance by either the secretary or undersecretary of the Navy, he said.
While the commandant is canceling his ball, it is still unclear if in-person celebrations will occur at other installations.
A Training and Education Command spokesman told Marine Corps Times that its ball is also canceled.
Marine Corps representatives from Camp Pendleton, California, and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, have yet to comment on the status of balls aboard those respective installations.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Paul Zacharzuk told Marine Corps Times in an email that he was planning to attend a birthday celebration aboard Camp Pendleton, California. But the celebration — which would have been his first since his 2013 retirement — was canceled in early October.
“Neither my friend or I understand the reason why with all the events taking place now both indoors and outdoors,” Zacharzuk wrote. “It’s really disappointing to hear that units are being directed to cancel their Birthday Balls.”
Since the Marine Corps 13th Commandant Gen. John Lejeune established the Nov. 10 birthday celebration in 1921, Marines past and present have gathered on that date to celebrate the founding of the Marine Corps.
According to Bruce, Marines should still celebrate the birth of their Corps, even if Defense Department sponsored celebrations are canceled for a second consecutive year.
“Marines have always thrived under difficult circumstances and the 246th year of the Corps is no different,” Bruce said. “We encourage all Marines to celebrate our birthday traditions and history in ways that keep them safe and healthy.”
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.