Justin Timberlake, famous for his role as an NSYNC boy band member and now as a very successful pop artist, attended a Marine Corps ball over the weekend and gave his fans a glimpse of his experience on his website, saying it was "one of the most moving evenings" he has ever had.
To all my family, friends and fans -
I'm writing this out to all of you after attending an event that turned out to be one of the most moving evenings I've ever had...
I had the honor and privilege last night of attending The Basic School Instructor Battalion 236th Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the Greater Richmond Convention Center with Corporal Kelsey DeSantis...
I knew I would have an evening that I wouldn't forget... Something I could tell my friends about. What I didn't know was how moved I would be by the whole experience.
I've always been very vocal about my support of our Armed Forces. I've always felt like they offered us the opportunity to live our lives freely without the fear that so many other nations have to endure still to this day. And, they do it without asking for anything in return. I had this very feeling walking into this dinner. So, to say I was stoked to be there would be more than accurate.
As the evening got started, I met Kelsey and we made our way to the ballroom where the Marine Ball was going to be held. I stopped in an area designated as a kind of VIP for some of the officers, I think. I took some photos and shook hands with some of the men and women who take such great care of our freedom. It was nice to be there already.
Then, we moved to the ballroom where the dinner was set up... For a short while, I had the opportunity to sit with Kelsey, get to know her and get a tiny glimpse into what her life as a Marine was like. She talked about her training in mixed martial arts with a passion, a discipline, and a respect. It reminded me of how I hear my favorite athletes talk about their sport or, how I hear my favorites among my peers in music and film talk about their craft.
We sat in this huge ballroom and were the only ones there as, we had beaten the rest of the soldiers who were on their way in. So, we got a decent amount of time to chat before the ceremony started.
She seemed to me to be so humble and honest... Very cool. She also simultaneously seemed like she was nervous about the whole evening and if I was going to enjoy myself.
They started the ceremony. And, the next thing I knew I was watching a video about Pearl Harbor/WW2 and the September 11 terrorist attacks... It was a video with some first-hand accounts from some Marines who were there... Telling their stories of the sights and sounds of war and rescue. So vivid and real. So honest but, so filled with a sense of compassion and adoration for this wonderful country. They spoke with a pride that only they could have acquired through their experience as a US Marine. There was a common theme that I began to notice as well... No matter what the situation. No matter how dire...
They were there FIRST.
There on the front lines.
No questions... Just reaction.
While this tribute was playing, you could hear a pin drop. It was a surreal moment to be in that room with so many of our great Marines who have such a different type of connection to those stories. One that we who don't serve will NEVER understand. It was familial. It was like they were listening to their own blood brothers. I glanced around the room at young men and women, spouses and soldiers... At kids way beyond their years, really... All so deeply entwined. Not just by battle, even though we who have never endured anything remotely close to those experiences and have NO position to comment on... But, by having such life changing experiences through them and to not ever waver in their love and respect for our homeland. That's what I saw. A faith in us that has been tested time and time again. And, through it all, NEVER a drop of doubt.
I was truly moved.
Over the weekend, I was flying back from Arizona and while I was standing in first class waiting for the line on the plane to move so I could make my way to my coach seat, I looked to my right and saw a young Marine, he couldn't have been older than 21, with his wife. They too had been at a Marine Corps ball that weekend. The young Marine only had one arm, his other arm and two legs had been replaced by prosthetic limbs. I stood there in awe, thinking about how indebted we are to the military for their service and sacrifice, I could hardly comprehend the situation and all I could say was, thank you.