The Marine Corps component of U.S. Central Command canceled its annual birthday ball, citing “unforeseen operational commitments.”

Marine Corps Forces Central Command’s birthday ball had been slated for Nov. 16 as a celebration of the Marine Corps’ Nov. 10 birthday, according to a message by commander Maj. Gen. Chris McPhillips.

“Because of the uncertain situation, the MARCENT Commander wants to avoid a last-minute cancellation that would burden Marines, families, veterans, and members of the community with trying to recoup money from ticket sales, reservations, etc.,” Marine spokesman Capt. Joe Wright told Marine Corps Times via email on Wednesday.

Wright attributed the “tough decision” to cancel the ball to “the dynamic and uncertain security environment in the CENTCOM (area of responsibility).”

The command counts 21 countries in the Middle East and surrounding regions in its area of responsibility, but it is located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, just south of Tampa.

Days after Hamas’ attack on Israel, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and its associated naval element departed an exercise in Kuwait early and sailed out of the Persian Gulf “on a high readiness status,” according to Central Command, which declined to provide further details to Marine Corps Times.

On Tuesday, Central Command announced that 300 more troops would be deployed to the Middle East to protect U.S. forces, which have come under drone attacks in Iraq and Syria.

“Our primary responsibility as Marines is to ensure the security and defense of our nation,” McPhillips wrote in the message. “It is this commitment to duty that has necessitated the cancellation of what would undoubtedly have been an exceptional evening of camaraderie and tradition.”

McPhillips acknowledged the “immense effort” that had already gone into planning the ball.

The ball had been scheduled to occur in Tampa, according to Wright.

The command posted the message to X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday morning and deleted it in less than an hour as speculation swirled online about the reason for the cancelation. Wright told Marine Corps Times the command pulled the post from X and posted it to Facebook because the audience it’s trying to reach — of current and former members of the unit, family members and the larger Tampa community — is located on Facebook.

In 2020 and 2021, many Marine commands adjusted or scrapped their birthday balls in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Marines still marked the birthday with cake-cutting ceremonies, though not necessarily full-fledged balls.

Marine vet Matthew Cothron, better known as “Chaps,” wrote on Barstool Sports on Wednesday of his time in the Corps, “One fact always has remained the same. Marines have a Ball. It doesnt even have to be in a place that is fancy.”

“When I first saw the letter from the Commanding General, I was shocked,” he added. “Units this large don’t do something like this without talking to higher levels of Command so when CentCom does it, whew.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more context on Marine birthday balls, including comments published in Barstool Sports.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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