March on Over to Mess Night With the 1/1 Marines

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Non-commissioned officers of the 1/1 Marines at last year's Mess Night at the Balboa Bay Club and Resort. This year's Mess Night will be next Thursday .

On Thursday, March 1, the Balboa Bay Club and Resort will again be the setting for the 7th Annual Newport Beach 1st Battalion, 1st Marines (1/1) Foundation Mess Night. If you have never attended a Mess Night, especially this one, you are missing out on a truly memorable evening.

The black-tie affair, which honors the units’ officers and staff non-commissioned officers, combines the best of what makes any formal event sparkle, not the least of which is a ballroom filled with Marines in their finest dress uniforms with smiles as broad as their faces. It is an evening that brings guests and military leaders together to honor not only the Marines and their fallen comrades, but our country as a whole.

I am never more proud to be an American than when I am standing among those brave men and women.

The relationship between the city of Newport Beach and 1st Battalion, 1st Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton began in 2003 when the city “adopted” the battalion, providing community and financial support to them and their families, especially during overseas deployments. Knowing this support is available in turn helps the troops to fully focus on their assigned combat missions.

The 1/1 is one of the most decorated and distinguished units in the Marine Corps. They are an integral part of America’s premier “force-in-readiness” that has historically been first to the fight when conflict arises. The unit has played a major role in the most important military campaigns throughout our nation’s history. Their motto “Ready to Fight” not only reflects 1/1’s ability to respond to any crisis on short notice, but also its eagerness to support and defend the rights and freedoms of every American.

Because the 1/1 returned from Iraq in September  and will be deploying to Afghanistan by the end of the year, this Mess Night will be a special evening for all the Marines who attend. From commanding officers to privates, Mess Night brings all ranks together with civilian supporters in a night of light-hearted camaraderie filled with protocol, tradition, remembrance and fun-loving tomfoolery – a much-needed and well-deserved evening of entertainment for the troops.

The evening will start with a social hour, with Marines of the mess meeting and greeting guests as members of the 1st Marine Division Band play in the background.

This year’s guest of honor is Col. David Furness, Commanding Officer of the 1st Marine Regiment, who it so happens, was the 1/1 Battalion Commander back when the Newport Beach 1/1 Mess Night first started.

As the formal dinner of prime rib begins, the mess festivities will be lead by LtCol Michael Targos, Commanding Officer of the 1/1 who has been assigned “President of the Mess” – he controls the flow of events.

1stSgt Dennis Nash will act as vice-president of the mess, or ‘Mr. Vice,’ and will be assisted by his civilian cohort “Madame Vice” Krisztina Scheef, a member of the NB 1/1 Foundation advisory board. Mr. Vice acts as the enforcer of the president’s decisions and regulates who may speak to the president throughout the evening.

Civilian guests play a key role in the event and are a source of the funds raised during the evening for the 1/1 Foundation. During dinner, all members of the mess have the opportunity to charge another with a nominal fine if a legitimate reason is given. This is where the evening gets pretty entertaining, since the charges tend to be farfetched.

If the mess member makes a good case, the president fines the guilty party an amount he sees fit, or forces the defendant to perform a show for the mess. Depending on how creative the president is, the judgments meted out to the members of the mess can be pretty humorous, and all in good fun. Last year, upon being accused of not adequately cleaning his firearm, a gunnery sergeant and members of his unit were charged with singing a Madonna song. It was hilarious.

As the ceremony winds down, formal toasts are given in tribute to soldiers who have served in conflicts throughout history and to those who will fight in the future. A toast is made to fallen comrades and as a bugler plays “Taps,” a spotlight shines on a table set for one which is held empty throughout the evening. The final toast of the night is always to the success of the Marine Corps. With that, the president dismisses the room by asking “Gentleman and ladies, will you join me at the bar?” To which the response is a rousing, unified “Oorah!”

Mess Night is a great opportunity for our community to express its gratitude and appreciation to those who go forward to defend our country’s ideals and interests. It goes beyond making any sort of political statement, and the Marines know it, making the evening that much more enjoyable.

Tickets are still available for this year’s Mess Night. For more information, log on to www.oneonemarines.com or call 949-644-3202.

Columnist Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach. She can be reached at www.LynnSelich.blogspot.com.

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