Ambassador Richard R. Verma’s Remarks to the 240th Marine Corps Ball

Good evening everyone. Thank you for being here on this very special occasion – the 240th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps!  I’d like to give a warm welcome to Major General Steven Rudder for taking the time to honor us with his presence here this evening.   In his 31 years as a Marine, Major General Rudder has given outstanding service to the people of the United States and people around the world.  He has served in such places as Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so many other places helping fulfill the Corps’ mission as America’s front-line force, prepared to respond to a crisis anywhere in the world.  Thank you sir and your wife, Holly, for coming this evening, and for your decades of distinguished service.

I would also like to thank retired General Bikram Singh, former chief of staff of the Indian Army for joining us here tonight.  We have had such outstanding military to military cooperation with our Indian colleagues over the years – with their highly professional and proficient forces – we are natural strategic and defense partners, and that all starts with great leaders like General Singh.  Thank you, General Singh, and all those Indian troops who serve their nation so proudly.

It is a pleasure to be the guest of honor here.  This is one of the more enjoyable, if not the most enjoyable, part of the job of Ambassador.  I just wish we could honor the marines like this more often.  When I arrived in Delhi, almost a year ago now, we had to hit the ground running.  I barely had time to unpack my bags before Secretary Kerry came for a visit.  And of course his visit was quickly followed by President Obama’s historic Republic Day visit.  A visit that showed how close our two nations have become. And things have not slowed down since then.  Throughout this busy year our Marines have worked side-by-side with us, not just securing the Embassy but also binding us together as a community.  I’ve played many games of hoops with the Marines in the front driveway, and a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of jogging to India Gate with them…with a few more runs in the weeks ahead….i try to ignore the multi-decade age difference between me and this group of energetic, strong and tough Marines.  They are the best of the best, and we are lucky they are here with us in New Delhi.

There are a lot of privileges to the job of Ambassador, but one of those is knowing that when I walk into the Embassy each day a Marine is the first person I see in the morning when I walk into the embassy.  And whether I’m leaving at five o’clock, which is unfortunately rare, or midnight, which is all too common, a Marine is the last person I see when I leave.  They are our partners in diplomacy as well as our first line of defense.  They remind us who we are as Americans and what a special honor it is to serve this great country.

The history of the U.S. Marine Corps is part of the fabric of America.  Whenever we were born, where ever we come from, all Americans know the first line of the Marine Corps Hymn: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…”  These words honor one of earliest missions of the Marine Corp when they laid down their lives battling pirates in the Mediterranean to protect the freedom of the seas.  Since those early days people around the world have seen the Marines as liberators, as rescuers, and as protectors.  Admiral Nimitz said of the Marines fighting at Iwo Jima, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  We see that valor live on today, across the globe, in conflict zones and in keeping the peace.  President Reagan perhaps said it best when he observed, “some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world.  But the Marines don’t have that problem.”

Marines have been there for us throughout our history.  And as long as there are places where freedom needs to be defended or people need assistance they will be there.  Marines are our first line, not just in war but in times of humanitarian crisis as well.  Whether responding to the earthquake in Haiti, the disasters in Fukushima, Japan or the Boxing Day Tsunami, Marines have the unique capacity to respond quickly anywhere in the world to any crisis.

Here in Delhi and in Embassies and Consulates around the world, Marine Security Guards protect our lives and make it possible for us to work for a better, more peaceful and more prosperous world.  They are an integral part of anything this Embassy achieves.  Since 1946, Marine Security Guards have guarded our embassies, protecting diplomats overseas. During emergencies, Marine Security Guards have been the first to respond in the face of civil unrest, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks.  And some have laid down their lives. The Marine Corps’ motto is Semper Fidelis, “always faithful”.  It’s a commitment every Marine takes to heart.

As Secretary Kerry said in his message to the Marine Corps this year:

This past year I had the honor of re-opening our embassyin Havana, Cuba.  As I watched the Marines who lowered theflag in 1961 pass it on to the Marines now serving inHavana to be raised again over our embassy, I observed thenotion of “once a Marine always a Marine” and the valuespassed down through the generations.

Even among Marines, these MSGs are a special group of men and women.  Less than one percent of all Marines have qualified for and completed Marine Security Guard duty.  They add to the health of our Embassy community, doing everything from hosting happy hours to coaching little league.  And they contribute to the wider Delhi community through their Toys for Tots Christmas program and other outreach efforts.  So to our Marines:  Sergeant Butler, Sergeant Bugarin, Sergeant Frechette, Sergeant Venegas, Sergeant Rodriguez, Sergeant Holahan, Sergeant Ocampo, Corporal Dominguez, and of course, their commander, Gunny Sgt. Timothy Brake:  On behalf of the entire community of U.S. Embassy New Delhi, thank you.  Our embassy would not be the strong community it is without your leadership, example, and patriotism.  Tonight is your night.  Enjoy it as we celebrate your unwavering service to our country.

As we look ahead to Veterans Day this week, we thank all of you who continue to wear the uniform or have served your nation.  Your country is grateful for your service.  And, to the broader Embassy community represented here tonight – foreign service officers, officials from all agencies of our government, family and friends, we not only thank you for being here tonight to join in this great celebration – we recognize all of you too for your professionalism, dedication to mission and all you do to make this one of the finest Embassies in the world.

Have a great time tonight, Happy Birthday US Marine Corps, and Semper Fidelis!