A few weeks back, I had the amazing opportunity of attending the 241st Marine Corps Birthday Ball with my hero, my Da (my grandfather.) He served 33 years in the Marine Corps, with a bio, experiences and stories of a true legend. He is without a doubt one of the greatest Americans I know.
As we got ready for the ball we prepped our medals and aligned them according to standards. We ensured all necessary items were accounted for and laid them out the night prior as all squared away Marines would do. We placed his mini medals on his tux along with his aerial observer wings, dive bubble, and jump wings. We placed his Ranger tab on the right side of his tux. He said upon graduation of Ranger school, the instructor placed the tab on his cammies. He walked away and put them into his pocket, and the instructor asked why he removed them? He said, “we are Marines, we didn’t come for the tab, we came for the training.” He’d never had the opportunity to wear that tab since earning it, and he took delight in wearing it on his tuxedo.
As we walked into the event together, arm in arm, the moment was surreal. I was walking next to the man whom I had aspired to be like, I was wearing the the Eagle Globe and Anchor that he had earned. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and my heart was bursting with joy. As I write this, my eyes fill with tears as I relive the intense emotions I felt that evening. He looked at me and said, “My dear, everyone is staring at us.” I said, “why do you say that?” He said, ” a silver star recipient and the prettiest Marine Officer are walking into this Huntsville ball, everyone is staring at us.” We laughed together and went on to enjoy one of the most joyful evenings of my life.
Since my Nini’s passing I have not been able to spend much time with my Grandfather. He mentioned that of all the trials and challenges in his life, loosing her was by far the hardest. I know the sadness he feels in his heart, and I continue to worry for his happiness and health, but while at the ball I saw another side of him. He was so happy to be surrounded by Marines. He was young again, he had an extra pep in his step, he stood a little taller and he spoke of Nini to everyone at our table.
While watching the young couples dance the night away, I asked my Da, “of all the Marine Corps Balls that you and Nini went to, which one was your favorite?” He said, “The very first. She didn’t come from much money, and neither of us had enjoyed an evening like that before. I enjoyed be able to provide that for her for the first time.” We both wished she could have been there, but knew that she was looking down over us.
On our way out we stopped to get our photo taken. Which he had traditionally taken with my Grandmother. These photos are the photos my sister and I constantly looked at as little girls. As we took the photo, it amazed me how life had come full circle. How the little girl admiring her grandfather growing up, was now a grown woman and a Marine Officer herself. The impact that my Grandparent’s actions have had on my life are indescribable. I can only hope to be half the Grandparents that they were to me. I strive to someday be standing next to my Grandchildren feeling the same sense of joy, pride and happiness as he.