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thedrifter
11-06-06, 08:47 AM
Young Marine joins birthday ball tradition
November 06,2006
ANNE CLARK
DAILY NEWS STAFF

A month and five inspections later, his uniform is ready for the birthday ball. His noncommissioned officers made sure the fit was good and the emblems were placed correctly.

“If I was an NCO, I’d want my Marines’ uniforms to look more squared away than mine,” said Pfc. Joseph Christian. “I’d put them ahead of me.”

Christian was prepping for his first birthday ball Nov. 3; it’ll be his first formal event, outside of family weddings.

It’s been 231 years since the Marine Corps was born in a Philadelphia tavern. Legend has it that the bar’s owner was the Corps’ first recruiter.

In 1921, Gen. John Lejeune issued an order honoring the Nov. 10 birthdate; within a few years, different installations were celebrating the occasion — some with a formal dance, others with a battle re-enactment.

Today’s birthday ball is equal parts somber remembrance, proud reflection, and a real good party.

“I want to see what the whole ceremony is like,” said Christian, 23. “It should be an exciting time.”

His unit, Headquarters and Support Battalion, is having their ball at a Wilmington hotel. Christian and his buddies have planned post-party fun in Wilmington’s nightclubs.

But first he’ll make some memories: posing for a formal portrait in his service alphas (he’ll send pictures to his mother and his girlfriend back home); listening to the stirring military marches; hearing the Commandant’s birthday message.

Christian and the other guests will likely watch a short film linking Marines of history to those who are fighting today.

“I’ll see them and think, ‘How can I help them, my brothers out there?’” Christian said. He’s currently attached to Camp Lejeune, but could be deployed sometime during what he plans to be a 20-year career.

Since it’s a birthday celebration, there will be cake. Traditionally, the youngest and oldest Marines present get the first slices. Christian hopes to meet some of the veterans there.

“That’s going to be me one day, passing that knowledge on,” he said.

Christian liked the Corps for its camaraderie, something he witnessed in high school as a member of the Junior ROTC.

“There’s a brotherhood, a tight bond,” said Christian. “I could call someone at 3 a.m. to give me a ride, and a Marine would come.”

He’s the son of Indian immigrants who moved to the U.S. in the 1970s.

“They wanted something better for the family they were going to raise,” said Christian. They settled in New York.

He was driving to school in Staten Island on Sept. 11 when he watched the hijacked plane plow into the second trade center tower.

“I almost drove off the road,” said Christian. “That changed my outlook.” Lost for several hours in the chaos were one of his uncles and a cousin, but they were found safe.

Christian enlisted exactly nine months before the Marine Corps’ birthday — Jan. 10 of this year — because he wanted to do something better for his life, he said.

Though the music will be lively at the ball, and the women beautiful, the service members gathered there will remember those who will celebrate Nov. 10 from the desert.

“I’ll pray for the troops out there to get home safe,” said Christian. “I’d want someone to look out for me, too.”

Ellie