View Full Version : The Belles of the Ball

01-10-05, 07:48 AM
The Belles of the Ball <br />
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Marine Spouses Honor Deployed Husbands by Observing Corps' Birthday <br />
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While Marine units in every clime and place were celebrating the 229th Birthday of the Corps, the...

01-10-05, 07:49 AM
As it turned out, the perfect locale was right in front of her face. Retired Sergeant Major Ihor Sywanyk has been a close friend of Jezek-Power for quite some time. As the proprietor of SywanykS Scarlet and Gold Traditions, he volunteered to close his establishment to the public on Ball night, providing a venue in which the squadron's wives could celebrate their love of the Corps without the slightest hint of impropriety.

With all the logistical obstacles hurdled, the stage was set for a truly memorable evening, singular in its conception and honorable in its intent. When Ball night came, so did the wives.

Wearing a tuxedo of black on red, Sywanyk was one of three men in the building and the only one who wasn't there strictly for photography. By his arrangement, even the active-duty Marines on hand to carry out the official ceremony were exclusively female volunteers.

"We're making history tonight. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to show our support for our fellow sisters-in-arms," remarked the color guard's Sergeant Jennifer Zitani, who voiced her respect for the wives' show of spousal support.

As the Ball kicked off, a mess dress-clad retired Gunnery Sergeant Judy Pitchford started her narration: "Ladies, welcome to the HMM-263 spouses-only celebration of the 229th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. This is a first-time-ever event that, in the history of the Marine Corps, [has] spouses of deployed Marines joined together in their absence to celebrate the Corps' Birthday and to honor their Marines' service to God, country and Corps."

Just before the invocation, delivered by the sergeant major's wife, The Reverend Duanne Keir-Sywanyk, a hush fell over the room as the squadron's wives were treated to video footage of their husbands' Birthday greetings from far-off Iraq. Tangible pride permeated every nook of the establishment. All eyes were fixed unflinchingly on the screen as face after face, voice after conspicuously masculine voice, galvanized the women with the laughter of a shared joke and the cooing of a shared intimacy.

The emotion was palpable. In the moment, it seemed as if the worry reserved for loved ones sorely missed was replaced with a video-captured reminder of the individual personality quirks for which each woman in attendance had come to love her Marine.

The ceremony continued with a cake cutting that was quite unique. In the absence of a guest of honor, the first piece of cake was given to Cynthia Osborn and Lisa Rethage, wives of the squadron's commanding officer and sergeant major, respectively. Osborn, in accordance with tradition, handed the first slice to the oldest wife present, Marge Shine, who married Master Gunnery Sergeant William J. Shine on Sept. 25, 1983. Shine then passed the cake to the youngest wife present, Kesha Krieble, who married Corporal Michael J. Krieble just eight days after her 18th birthday, Aug. 23, 2003.

"The passing of the cake signifies the passing of patience, love, the 101 recipes to fix hamburger, and the ability to pack a three-bedroom home in two days with three children in tow and without the help of your husband more times than you wish to count," narrated Pitchford. "It further emphasizes the fact that Marine Corps wives are smart, strong, powerful American women who lean on each other when they have no one else to hold them up."

The ceremony ended when all the wives stood for the retirement of the colors and the playing of the national anthem, "The Marines' Hymn" and a very emotional song that has been known to lump the throats of all those who hold patriotism in their hearts.

"Knowing what [our husbands] are going through over there in Iraq, the most emotional moment for me was when they played ['God Bless the USA'] by Lee Greenwood," said Staff Sergeant Jaymz Bott's wife Roxanna, who wasn't alone in her sentiment.

As the song lent itself to quiet contemplation, the wives of HMM-263 (Rein) were noticeably moved to feelings that appeared on their faces as an emotional mix of fidelity, pride and the yearning known only to those with the toughest job in the Corps.

"I am extremely gratified to know that my single expression of patriotism has meant so much to the Marines and family members of [Marine Medium Helicopter] Squadron 263," Greenwood said humbly upon learning his song had helped the squadron's spouses to honor their deployed husbands. "We are all proud of their courageous service to secure the country of Iraq and to fight terrorism and those who export it."

Jezek-Power hopes the idea of a spouse-only Ball will "catch fire" throughout the Corps and that, in the future, deployed Marines can continue to accomplish their noble missions with the knowledge that their spouses are just as dedicated to the Corps as the Marines they love.