Ambassador Heyman’s Remarks at the Marine Corps Ball

November 12, 2016
Ottawa, ON

As prepared for delivery.

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is one of the highlights of my year.  I am so honored to be here tonight and in this fantastic venue!

In a few minutes I will read a birthday message from Secretary of State John Kerry to the United States Marine Corps.  There is a reason the Secretary of State sends a birthday message every year.  The United States Marine Corps and the Department of State have a longstanding relationship and I cannot overemphasize this: the Marine Security Guards are an immensely important part of our diplomatic family around the world.

It is hard to believe that this select group of over 1,000 men and women who make up the Marine Security Guard program, on which U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world rely so much, started out as a small group of less than 100 Marines in 1948.   In its nearly 70-year history, the Marine Security Guard program has developed into one of the strongest relationships in the history of U.S. civilian-military relations.

Our Marine Security Guards stand duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year on year, protecting U.S. Government personnel and property in every environment; whether the situation is hostile or peaceful, our Marine Security Guards are there.  Our Marine Security Guards protect diplomatic personnel and property; they have rescued and defended American embassies and consulates around the globe; and they ensure that the United States can conduct diplomacy safely and securely around the world.

Here in Canada, our brave Marine detachment, without any hesitation, stood on guard protecting the Embassy during the 2014 Parliament Hill attack which took place only a stone’s throw away from our Embassy.  In service to the wider community, they have organized and mobilized our Embassy family in much anticipated Toys for Tots drives year upon year.

I’ve always known that our Marines here in Canada are as about elite as you can get, but just in case we needed any kind of confirmation, in the last couple of weeks, our very own Marine Security Guards in Canada did extremely well in their inspection.  So, it’s not just me saying how wonderful they are, it’s now in writing.  Congratulations to our Marines.  We are privileged to have you.

As the Ambassador here in Canada, I’m pleased to announce that we have bought a new Marine House for our team here in Ottawa.  But, hold on,  you can’t move in yet!  We need to do some renovations, spruce the place up, and make it just right for you.  Trust me when I say this: the whole Embassy is waiting for your first big party in your new place!  As evidenced by tonight’s festivities, our hardworking Marines know how to let loose when they need to.  From the burger burns, and pancake burns, to the happy hours, the Marines have kept us fed and happy!  But just to remind us that there should be balance, the Marines have generously invited the Embassy community to participate in their combat fitness tests.  Yes, it’s true, the happy hours get the higher turnout!

All humor aside, our Marine Security Guards are a true symbol of America’s values:  integrity, courage, loyalty, and commitment.  At U.S. embassies and consulates, they do not just stand at “Post.”  They stand for America!

It is now my distinct honor to read you a special Birthday Message from Secretary of State John Kerry:

On behalf of the Department of State and all our employees serving overseas and at home, I offer my warmest and best wishes to the United States Marine Corps on its 241st birthday.

There are few institutions in our country older than America itself and the Corps is one of them.  Born in Philadelphia some eight months before Independence was officially declared, the first Marines formed ranks to fight for our nation’s birth – not yet in air – but most definitely on land and sea.

All Americans and, in fact, people everywhere who value freedom, have ample reason to be grateful to the Marines.  But at the State Department, we have special cause for thanks because of the detachments who stand a watchful guard at our embassies and other diplomatic outposts across the globe.  We simply could not carry out America’s foreign policy without that brave blue line.

One of the great privileges of my job has been the opportunity to visit with Marines and to thank you personally wherever I could, not only in our embassies and consulates, but also at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand, in Kandahar, Kabul, Baghdad, and Fallujah.  Part of a diplomat’s job is to minimize the need for members of our armed forces to venture into harm’s way, but that job is made easier by the knowledge – and the knowledge of potential adversaries – that if force is required to defend America, the job will be entrusted to the best-led, most capable, and most professional troops the world has ever seen.

As the men and women of the United States Marine Corps, you embody the very finest of what America stands for.  You deserve our admiration and gratitude today and every day.  Congratulations and may the coming year be one of health, growth, and success for you all.

Happy Birthday Marines and Semper Fidelis!


John F. Kerry