MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Almost fifty members of the Albany Marine Band let their instruments rest May 8 for an evening of camaraderie during a time-honored tradition.
The Marines, all sharply dressed in their service alpha uniforms, gathered at the Crossroad Restaurant to participate in a Mess Night. The evening began with a social call at the bar area of the restaurant, where the Marines, guests and guest of honor Maj. Kent Morrison, battalion commander, socialized and shared stories.
After First Call was sounded by Pfc. Kevin Griggs, who served as Mr. Vice for the evenings events, the Band filed into the banquet room of the restaurant and patiently waited for those at the head table to be seated. Seated at the head table were Morrison; Chief Warrant Officer Lauren LaVine, band officer, who served as President of the Mess Night; 1st Sgt. Michael Jones, battalion sergeant major; Master Sgt. Matthew Farquhar, enlisted band leader; Gunnery Sgts. Tye Beck and Eduardo Munoz, supply chief and drum major, respectively; Staff Sgt. Michael McNanny, assistant drum major; and retired Master Gunnery Sgt. James Eckles.
Mr. Vice, who took his seat at the back of the room next to the fallen comrade table, said grace for the members of the Mess. The Base Restaurant staff served the Marines shrimp, French onion soup and salads.
Everything happened when it was supposed to, as far as each portion of the meal and the wine, said LaVine. The staff at Crossroad did an excellent job, and the food was great.
During the first course, while laughing, joking and building camaraderie, a few members of the band decided to test Mr. Vice and his authority by clapping and whistling. The young private first class took charge of the room and settled the Marines with no hesitation.
Pfc. Griggs was chosen as Mr. Vice because he is the junior Marine in the band, LaVine stated. He did an excellent job he kept control and did everything he was supposed to do.
Griggs, who had graduated from Army Airborne School three days prior to the Mess Night, grabbed his pack and joined the band in the field the previous Friday evening. He returned Sunday evening with the band the night before to the Mess.
His preparation consisted of about three hours on Monday the day of the Mess Night, said LaVine. However, I was quite impressed with his performance.
He (Griggs) is my hero, said Morrison. I enjoyed watching him he carried himself so well and so professional. He truly maintained the dignity of being a Marine.
Though his peers and superiors are proud of his performance, Griggs gives total credit for his accomplishment to one of his motivated noncommissioned officers.
I wouldnt have gotten it all done if Corporal Young (Cpl. Scott Young, French horn player) hadnt helped me, confessed Griggs.
To test Griggs even further, Lance Cpl. Ryan Manzi, guitar player, tried to leave the banquet room without asking Mr. Vices permission, but to no avail; he was tackled and restrained by Mr. Vice, showing Griggs true command over the room.
It was a lot of fun to be Mr. Vice ... Griggs stated. ... for once to be in charge of NCOs and staff NCOs, all in fun.
The President of the Mess called bring on the beef, at which time, Vernon Grant, cook leader of the Base Restaurant, presented a sample of the evenings beef to LaVine.
Traditionally, the first piece of beef presented, which is always a mockery, is found to be unfit for human consumption, just as LaVine proclaimed the Spam. The second piece was then found fit for human consumption by the President, so the band could be served dinner.
During dinner, the floor was opened for fines by the President of the Mess. During this period, Marines traditionally charge other Marines fines for mistakes or mishaps they made in the past or during that evening.
Cpl. Jemel Baxter, tuba player, was the first to charge a fine ... to Lance Cpl. Kelly Carroll, flute player. Baxter creatively reenacted the story of when Carroll brought two right shoes to a band commitment. Carrolls fine was to sing a song in front of the Mess. Her choice was Im a Little Tea Pot, with motion included.
I deserved it, Carroll admitted. Along with now being called Lance Corporal Rightshoe.
Another creative fine was paid by Manzi, who was charged for leaving the room and fined to run two laps around the Mess while wailing like a siren.
We asked him how much of an emergency it was, LaVine said. He said it was a big emergency, so we had him demonstrate that.
After closing the floor to fines, the President of the Mess ordered Mr. Vice to march on the smoking lamp to light the guest of honors cigar. When the smoking lamp was proclaimed lighted, the Marines each opened cigars and enjoyed an after-dinner smoke. The President then called on the port wine for toasting. As with the cigars, the band members of the Mess followed suite.
LaVine introduced the head table and said, Tonight we celebrate the time-honored tradition of a Mess Night. This is our opportunity to share in camaraderie, tell lies, and laugh at each other and ourselves.
We are truly a band of brothers and sisters, he said. With our music, we remind others what it is to be a true patriot.
LaVine also gave the Mess advice about leadership before introducing the guest speaker.
The difference between a good leader and a great leader, according to LaVine, is that with a good leader, the followers feel good about the leader. However, with a great leader, the followers feel good about themselves.
Morrison took center stage as the guest speaker, he started by sharing his personal feelings on the Marine Corps.
What I am today is because of my leaders, said Morrison. I take credit for none of that. Vietnam veterans taught me ... those were my leaders.
I believe we are the worlds finest ... in day-to-day life and with our standards, he said. Nobody likes to fight, but somebody must know how.
Morrison shared some excerpts from letters he sent his mother during boot camp, in 1974. I wanted to show those Marines how good I felt to be a Marine, from day one, Morrison commented. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with them.
Morrison continued by closing with more heartfelt thoughts on being a Marine.
I get to call you Devil Dog ... that was earned for us, he said, and I get to share in some of that legacy. But we still have to earn it every day. When you wear U.S. Marine, you need to continue the standard every day.
Id hate to go through life saying there was the best, but I took second best, said Morrison. Ill never say that.
While sharing his ideals about the Corps, Morrison also touched on his thoughts about leadership and courage.
The hardest is moral courage, not physical, he said. What is morally, ethically and legally correct is courage.
Morrison then quoted Mark Twain by saying, It is those who take the physical stand ... that prove themselves stronger than fear.
Moral cowards never win, Morrison claimed. As Marines, we continuously embody a sense of honor, courage and commitment.
Major Morrison truly leads from the front, stated LaVine. Thats something Marines all through the ranks understand. He takes an active role in leading all of the Marines here (Albany).
When Morrison finished talking and receiving a standing ovation from the Mess, Mr. Vice presented him with a gift from the Band a battle-scarred drum head from a bass drum that has been signed by each member of the band.
It (drum head) came off our marching bass drum that day, said LaVine. We gave him one with dents, discolorations, and even blood, and wanted it to be something he wouldnt get from anyone else. I know he was touched.
The fallen comrade table was given honors when the President spoke on behalf of the fallen Marines, followed by the playing of Taps.
Long live the United States and success to the Marines, called the President.
The Marines joined the President at the bar for the remainder of the evening.