Thank you, Staff Sergeant for that introduction. On behalf of everyone here, I’d also like to thank you and the rest of the Marine detachment for your hard work in putting this evening together.
Rear Admiral Mark Campbell, representing the Chief of Defence Force,
Mr. Michael Pucci, State Member for Logan, QLD,
Air-Vice Marshall Peter Nicholson, Chair of the Kokoda Foundation,
Friends from the British Royal Marines – to whom I’ll wish a belated happy birthday since you celebrated your founding on October 28th,
Members of the USMC,
Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by reading Secretary Kerry’s message to our Marines:
“I am honored to bid the United States Marine Corps the State Department’s heartiest and most heartfelt congratulations on your 238th birthday.
As a Navy man, I had seen up close the remarkable professionalism, courage, and spirit that makes a United States Marine. But now in my travels as Secretary of State, I’ve come on a different level to respect your incredible service every time I meet Marines stationed at diplomatic posts throughout the world. Your valor and dedication to country is humbling. From Marines serving as advisors on counterterrorism, intelligence, and political-military affairs, to the Marine security guards who stand watch over our embassies, consulates, and missions, to the Marines forward deployed, either ashore or at sea – you perform your duty flawlessly, and we salute you.
Our Marines, especially those of you returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have given more of themselves than most will ever know. How fortunate we are as a nation, how truly blessed, to have you – and what pride we can all feel that our nation produces such outstanding warriors who are willing to go first into the heart of the action.
The Marines have a special comradeship, a unique bond, and I’ve always said that once you’re a Marine, you never stop being a Marine, even after you take off the uniform. Today we reaffirm our responsibility to keep faith and to celebrate the dedication of all who know the Lord’s words that “greater love has no one than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It is in that spirit that we remember all who served – and those who continue to serve side by side with the Department and its embassies abroad.
Happy 238th Birthday, Marines, and Semper Fidelis!”
It is fitting that we gather here tonight with good beer and wine to toast our USMC. You may not know this, but like many great ideas through history, the resolution creating the Marine Corps was drafted by John Adams in Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.
Tun also served as the first Marine Recruiting station – where young marines were lured into service with the promise of six dollars a month pay, and a pound of bread and meat, a half-pound of peas, and a half pint of rum every day.
Trust me; it wasn’t the peas that closed the deal!
It is a great honor to be here with you all tonight to celebrate the 238th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Secretary Kerry said last week that “every time [he] meets Marines stationed at diplomatic posts throughout the world [their] valor and dedication to country is humbling.” I am thankful every day for the dedicated Marines who watch over our Embassy and give us advice and keep us safe from harm.
Australia and the United States are the best of friends and the best of allies. Ours is a friendship born of shared history, shared values, and shared sacrifice. We have fought together in every major war since World War I. And for more than 60 years, the United States and Australia — working together – have ensured continued peace and security around the Pacific Ocean.
While our alliance is rock solid, we can’t ever take it for granted. And so, two years ago when President Obama announced our force posture initiatives here in Canberra, he agreed to send America’s best – he agreed to send our Marines.
We work together to fight terror wherever it may be, to make the land and sea safe, and to assist those who have been struck by natural disasters. We work together to ensure that our most deeply held values – equality, human rights, freedom of speech and religion – are possible for all people here in the region.
Today, even though great challenges remain, we are presented with enormous opportunities – for peace, for democratization, for trade and investment, and for implementing policies that will preserve and protect our world for future generations.
However, peace and security in the Pacific did not happen overnight, and the economic boom in the Asia Pacific over the last half a century was by no means a foregone conclusion. The prosperity we enjoy today came at a price.
As many of you know, I’m the son of a Marine. I’m also the second generation of my family to serve in the Pacific, although on much different terms. My father fought as part of the 1st Marine Division. My uncle, for whom I am named, was a fighter pilot who lost his life in the Philippines. Because of their service and sacrifice, I feel a special responsibility to advance the cause of peace they fought so valiantly to secure.
Last February marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Guadalcanal, widely regarded as the turning point in the war in the Pacific. My father fought in that battle. He told me that they landed with few supplies, and received little more due to the Japanese blockade. They were short of food and ammunition. They lived in foxholes and dugouts. But they were Marines, so they held.
They endured many hard mornings on Guadalcanal when they were waiting for resupply. They knew it would be a bad day when – more than once after night time naval battles – they looked out at the ocean and saw that all the ships were flying the Rising Sun. And they knew that help was not coming anytime soon. But they were Marines, so they held.
They fought in mud and rain and heat. They suffered from malaria and malnutrition. They endured continual assault, and were hit by some of the heaviest naval barrages of the war. But those Marines held that rock. And, in doing so, they helped turn the tide of the war – and of history.
In conditions like those – after nine months of hard fighting – it would be incredibly easy to lose hope. It would be easy to give up. But the Marines – my father among them – were lucky enough to come to Australia to rest and recuperate. After the hell of Guadalcanal, Australia must have seemed like a paradise.
When the ships came to Australia, there was a band there to meet them, playing “Waltzing Matilda.” General Vandegrift reportedly remarked that it was the best sound he had ever heard. Since that time, the 1st Division Marines always ship out to the sound of that song being played.
My father told me that the warmth, generosity, and goodness of the Australians he met in Melbourne reminded him of what we were fighting for and why it was important to keep going even against seemingly insurmountable odds. And he and his mates did go on – to battles all across the Pacific. But they kept the memory of the Lucky Country, and its people — alongside their memories of their families and their country – and that gave them strength.
An unknown Marine serving in Vietnam defined courage as “endurance for one moment more.” The United States Marines have demonstrated that courage on Guadalcanal and across the Pacific, in Korea and Vietnam, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And evil still walks the world. We only need to think of the terrorist attack in Kenya and chemical weapons usage in Syria to know that. But every day, the men and women of the Marine Corps hold and endure. And it is that perseverance, that brave willingness to be first under fire, that dedication, that faithfulness to the values and the Constitution that we all hold dear that are the foundation of your very motto – Always Faithful. Thank you for your courage, for your endurance, and for your 238 years of service.
May God continue to bless Australia and the United States of America. And God bless our U.S. Marines on this, their 238th birthday!
DCM: T Dougherty
EXEC: S Shafir
PAS: P Houge ok
PAS: A Edwards ok
DAO: C Westhoff ok