Marine Security Guard Detachment, American Embassy, Madrid, Spain. October 1997.
Marine Corps Ball season was in full swing. At American embassies the world over, the Marine Corps Ball is the event of the year. The ladies were getting their gowns ready and military personnel from the Defense Attache Office and the Office of Defense Cooperation were polishing brass and shining shoes to a high sheen.
One morning, while conducting my rounds through the embassy, I swaggered by the mail room. The mail room was run by a hand full of Air Force ninjas. They normally worked in civilian clothes throughout the day as they made regular trips to the airport and other off site areas in the city. We generally enjoyed stirring the coals of inter-service rivalry between each other but today’s encounter wouldn’t go quite as they imagined.
As I passed the senior Airman in the hall I asked if he was getting his dress uniform all squared away for the Marine Corps Ball. He shrugged his shoulders saying: “Nah, I’m just going to wear a tux.” The temperature in the passageway suddenly dropped as I leaned into him. Through clenched teeth I expressed my disdain for anyone without enough service pride to wear their uniform to a military function. Further, if wearing his uniform caused such a lack of self esteem, he’d best not even bother attending the ball in the first place.
My Airman friend suddenly found himself firmly pressed into the bulkhead despite the fact I hadn’t laid a hand on him. Nodding absently, he peeled himself off the wall and hurried on his way.
That November all the Airmen proudly wore their uniforms to the ball.