Ambassador Berry’s Remarks for the 239th Anniversary Marine Corps Ball

The Honorable Stuart Robert, Assistant Minister for Defence, and Mrs. Chantelle Robert;

Major General Gus Gilmore, Deputy Chief of Army, Representing the Chief of the Defence Force, and Mrs. Lisa Gilmore;

Lieutenant General John E. Wissler, Commanding General III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Mrs. Sue Wissler;

Mr. John T. Poirier;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

And all who have served our nations, especially our Marines;

It is an honor to be here to celebrate the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

I am thankful every day for the dedicated Marines who watch over our Embassy and who keep us safe from harm around the world.

Three years ago, when President Obama announced our force posture initiatives during his speech to Parliament on our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, he told Australia we’d be sending our best – our Marines. After three successful rotational deployments of U.S. Marines in Darwin, the people of Australia know that the President kept his promise.

Since the first days of the Revolution, U.S. Marines have served the United States in every conflict.

Usually, they led the way. In all of them, they did so with courage, commitment, and honor.

Earlier this year, Lt. General Robling – the commanding general of Marine forces in the Pacific – bestowed a Bronze Star and the title of honorary Marine on an Australian, Brigadier Michael Harris, for his actions in Vietnam. He was the first non-American to command Marines in combat. It is appropriate that one of the few people to earn the title of “honorary Marine” is an Australian.

In describing our alliance with Australia, I have often said that we are not allies because it’s convenient.

I have said that our alliance is not one based on geography, or obligation. Our alliance is based on our profound belief in liberty, justice, democracy, and respect for human dignity and freedom. It is based on the knowledge that – even in the darkest of days – we will never abandon our friends.

Of course, these are all things that a U.S. Marine understands implicitly.

It is hard to face down the wrath of Mother Nature so that countless men, women, and children will live to see another day. But after massive earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, our Marines did just that. In Pakistan, after devastating floods, Marines provided food, medicine, water – and a ride to safety. In Liberia, they are helping to build badly needed treatment units to fight the spread of Ebola.

It would be easy to say that it is someone else’s duty to stop the spread of tyranny and terror. It would be easy to look away. But the men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps have fought – shoulder to shoulder with Australians – in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Vietnam and Korea, and on the islands of the Pacific so that people around the world can enjoy peace, prosperity, and freedom.

Even at home, Marines lead by example. In communities all across America, they are serving as role models and mentors to the next generation. After Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the East Coast, boots worn by the men and women of the Marine Corps were among the very first on the ground to provide relief and refuge to thousands.

I’m the son of a Marine. My father fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal as part of the 1st Marine Division. In conditions like those – after nine months of the hardest fighting – it would be incredibly easy to lose hope that there was any “good” left in the world. But the Marines – my father among them – were lucky enough to come to Australia to rest and recuperate. My father told me that the warmth, generosity, and goodness of the Australians he met reminded him not only that there was good left in the world – but it was damn well worth fighting for.

When the ships came to Australia, a band met them playing “Waltzing Matilda.” It was the sweetest sound any of them had ever heard. Since that time, the 1st Division Marines always ships out to that song.

Marines know that true democracy, real prosperity, and lasting security are not given to us as gifts. They must be earned. And they must be carefully nurtured by each generation. These values are the foundation on which the Marine Corps motto is built, and to which they remain – Always Faithful. These values are the rock which Marines will hold as long as our country endures.

We admire you for your leadership and courage.

We honor you for your endurance.

And we thank you for your 239 years of service.

May God continue to bless Australia and the United States of America.

And God bless our U.S. Marines!