248th Birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps: Ambassador’s Remarks

Remarks of Ambassador Richard L. Buangan
On the Occasion of the 248th Birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps

November 11, 2023
Chinggis Khaan Hotel, Ulaanbaatar

(As prepared)

Colonel Williams, representatives of the Government of Mongolia, members of the diplomatic corps, officers and enlisted of the Mongolian Armed Forces and foreign military representatives, colleagues, friends, and family of the U.S. Embassy, my fellow Americans, and most importantly, Staff Seargent Hewitt and the Marine Security Detachment of the U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar. Good evening and happy 248th birthday U.S. Marine Corps!

Before I go further, I want to ask those in this room who are Marines, past and present, please stand up and be recognized. Please remain standing. And if you are currently serving or have previously served your country in uniform in any service branch, be it for the United States, Mongolia, or any of our allies and partners, please stand up and be recognized.

Thank you all for your service.

Marines hold a very special place in my heart. My dad was in the Navy, he was a dental technician. His best friends were Marines.

They were over at our house all the time playing poker and gambling. So I learned how to cuss like a Marine. And I grew very comfortable around them. I learned why my dad liked having them around, not just a co-workers, but as close friends. He said Marines are the most loyal, generous, dependable, and trustworthy friends you can ever have. Their insults to each other, however, are extremely sharp, so you better learn how to act fast with a good comeback.

My dad was right. When I joined the Foreign Service and was assigned to my first post, my closest friends there were all Marines. As I progressed in my career, Marines have always been key people in my professional and personal life. And to this day, I hold firmly to the belief that Marines play just as an important role in our diplomatic mission as any member of my Country Team. So I’m excited to be able to pay tribute to them tonight. And grateful to all of you for coming here and joining me in celebrating their birthday.

There is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. Department of State of celebrating the United States Marine Corps and the valiant men and women who are proud “to claim the title of United States Marine”. Our two organizations have a special and unique relationship that technically started with a memorandum of agreement in 1948 but historically goes way back to the earliest days of the American Republic when Marines were protecting U.S. diplomatic and commercial interests in North Africa.

Marine Security Guards have stood alongside U.S. diplomats during periods of calm and crisis, throughout the Cold War and the Global War on Terror. We served together in places where U.S. embassies were shining beacons of hope and freedom behind the Iron Curtain, and we supported each other during moments of tragedy when American personnel and installations were targets of terror like in Lebanon, Kenya, and Tanzania.

But our cooperation is not just defined by a piece of paper, or entries in history books. It is much broader and deeper than that. Marines continue to be some of our most important partners to this day, and we cannot carry out our diplomatic missions without them. Earlier this year, twelve Marine Security Guards in Sudan kept the embassy secure as they helped evacuate nearly 100 American employees to safety. Even as the fighting and explosions drew closer, they stayed until they had secured all government personnel, property, and information.

Imagine for a moment those Marines conducting a solemn flag-folding ceremony as they shuttered the embassy amid the sounds of gunfire and chaos. It is hard not to be stirred by their steadfast commitment to their country and their duty.

As you heard in the video just now, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz said it best, that for Marines, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.” And nearly 80 years later, you can still see that exceptional, courageous spirit in action.

We are also reminded of the weight of duty as we gather here tonight. Like most years, we join many U.S. military and diplomatic installations around the world to celebrate the birthday of this honored and elite fighting force. But this year, not all of them will be donning their dress blues and dancing shoes. In fact the Marine Security Detachment at Embassy Cairo, just last night, cut their birthday cake in their cammies. Last week, the Marine Corps Forces Central Command, in charge of the service’s operations in the Middle East, canceled its annual ball due to the current situation in the region. Those Marines are in harm’s way, but they are still wishing each other happy birthday. We should never forget their service, their sacrifice, and their selflessness.

We at the U.S. Embassy are proud to have the Marines as partners not only for the valor they show in protecting our embassy, and advancing our diplomatic mission, but also because we are both representing the best of our country.

Our Marines here in Ulaanbaatar are more than just our protectors, they are important members of our community. They are friendly and courteous. They are our neighbors and our friends.

The Marines have volunteered countless hours of their precious time off to serve others here in Mongolia. This past year, they helped build a much-needed fence for an orphanage and regularly spend time volunteering at animal shelters. And I would be remiss not to note the speed at which they sprang into action during the July flood to help protect and save the houses and belongings of many of our embassy staff, including my own.

They embody everything that is true about the Marine Corps’ values of honor, courage, and commitment.

They personify the very essence of American diplomacy, which leads by example, acts with humility, and believes in the power of teamwork – the network of our alliances and partnerships – to protect our democracies so our people can live in freedom.

They epitomize the advice Marine Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Carl L. Sitter gave his Marines, to “strengthen the faint hearted; support the weak; help the suffering; [and] honor all people.”

To my American embassy colleagues who are celebrating with us tonight. I ask that when you return to work next week, take a moment as you enter Post One to stop and say thank you. Say thank you for the vital role these young men and women play in the success of our embassy. They do this job without their families and their loved ones – away from the comforts of home – to stand in a box and watch us walk past them 12 hours a day without fanfare or acknowledgment.

SSgt Hewitt, SSgt Cruz, Sgt Scott, Sgt Walker, Sgt Diaz, LCpl Gren, LCpl Graham, and LCpl Herrington, thank you for all that you do, as Marines, as our Ambassadors in Blue, and as members of our U.S. Embassy community. Thank you for keeping us safe, for enriching our lives, and for your contributions to the U.S.-Mongolia relationship. Our greater embassy family would not be the same without having all of you here as a part of it. Thank you for your friendship, thank you for your partnership, and thank you for your service. Let’s give them a round of applause.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate this 248th anniversary, we revere the memory of those Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and we honor those who continue to protect our great Nation with the same quiet resolve, fierce loyalty, and strong warrior ethos that has guided the Marines for the past two and a half centuries. We honor and pay tribute to all men and women, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. And let’s take a moment to acknowledge our colleagues in uniform serving the Mongolian Armed Forces. We have served together in the world’s most troubled places to protect the innocent, to fight aggression, to defeat terror, so these countries torn by conflict can create a just and lasting peace.

But tonight, it is about our Marines and the United States Marine Corps. It is about reminding us again of the timeless story of the origins of the Marines, remembering the Marines who have gone before us, honoring the legacy of those Marines who are still living and among us tonight, and sharing a piece of cake. Thank you Marines for putting on a wonderful Birthday Ball, thank you everyone for coming out to celebrate our Marines. May God Bless the United States Marine Corps, God Bless the United States of America, and God Bless Mongolia. Have a great evening everyone. Semper Fi! Ooh-Rah!