The top enlisted Marine believes it's "probable" that restrictions in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will remain in place during the Marine Corps Birthday Ball season in November.
Troy Black, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, wrote in a Facebook post on Friday that although the service's birthday is several months away, "it is probable" restrictions will limit the size and scope of birthday ball ceremonies, which are often celebrated on or around Nov. 10.
"Until we can once again celebrate in the manner in which we have become accustomed," Black wrote. "To safely, smartly, and properly honor the birth of our Corps while taking necessary steps to protect our people, is what will matter most this November."
Black outlined his views in an accompanying memo, which asked Marines to remember that the celebration of the Corps' birthday only requires a unit to gather together, read the 1921 birthday message of former Commandant Gen. John Lejeune, and hold a cake-cutting ceremony.
Marines often go far beyond this requirement, however, with most units offering well-rehearsed marching demonstrations, guest speakers, a formal dinner, dancing, and of course, plenty of drinking.
"We relish 'going big' and making a grand celebration of the founding of our Corps," Black wrote. "Like you, I enjoy these occasions, and I look forward to when we are not challenged by COVID mitigation measures such as travel restrictions, social distancing, and size restrictions on gatherings."
That doesn't mean Marines can't have a memorable birthday celebration in 2020. As Black explained, while deployed to Iraq in 2005 as a company first sergeant, he went to each platoon's defensive position in Husaybah, celebrating the birthday in the middle of combat.
"We had a small formation with each platoon, we cut an MRE pound cake, we presented a piece to the oldest and youngest Marine in the platoon, and we read General Lejeune's birthday message," Black wrote. "We did all this by flashlight."
You can read Black's full memo below: