Ambassador Chung’s Remarks at the 2022 U.S. Marine Corps Birthday Ball

November 18, 2022

Good evening and a very warm welcome.  It’s a privilege and a pleasure to join all of you this evening to mark the 247th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps.  Throughout its illustrious history, the Marine Corps has been involved with the work of U.S. diplomacy.  The long-standing relationship between the Marine Corps and the State Department formally deepened in 1948 with the advent of the Marine Security Guard program.  Today, Marine Security Guards serve at U.S. diplomatic missions in over 150 countries, and are seen by many as a visible symbol of U.S. presence and investment in our relationships with host nations.

The Marine Security Guard Detachment here at Embassy Colombo currently includes two Marines from my home state of California, as well as others from Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, Missouri, and Florida.  These Marines from across our country personify one of the United States’ greatest strengths, our willingness to embrace diversity and draw on the unique talents of individuals.  We rely on our Marines here at the Embassy to keep our resources and personnel safe, and they are the first and last people I see here every single day, no matter how early I come into the office or how late I leave. 

It gives me comfort to know they are standing guard, just as uniformed U.S. personnel offered a sense of security to my parents who lived through the Korean War as children.  American forces offered protection and calm in the post-war period, and my parents fondly remember their handing out wondrous Hershey’s kisses chocolates, a first small taste of the United States, which was to become our home years later.  As a little reminder of the optimism our country sparked in my family, even during the challenges of the Korean war, there are Hershey’s kisses on each table this evening—may they bring you a smile of recognition, remembering times when the United States inspired hope in you, as well.  I was fortunate to grow up with a world of opportunities as an immigrant to the United States, and pursued a career in diplomacy.  We, as diplomats, share with our military colleagues a strong ethos of service, and a commitment to fulfilling our nation’s highest democratic ideals.  We know what it’s like to be far from home, and we willingly take on any challenges associated with that because we have a strong sense of mission.  We come together to build a supportive community with our compatriots nearby.  Here, we’re especially fortunate to have wonderful Sri Lankan colleagues and friends who are part of our support network. 

All of us look out for one another.  In the case of our Marine Security Guards, they are also our first responders in tragic circumstances.  They are the ones who run towards danger as others run away from it.  From protecting our Embassy in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive, to responding to the 1998 terrorist attack on our Embassy in Kenya, Marines consistently act selflessly, often heroically.  Many have given the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our diplomatic facilities and colleagues.  That so many young, talented Marine men and women know these dangers, yet willingly take on the task of defending Embassies and Consulates worldwide, speaks to their courage, preparedness, and skill.  The valor of the U.S. Marines is a credit to our nation. 

The November 10 Marine Corps birthday falls the day before Veteran’s Day.  I’d like to take a moment now to thank the Marines, and ask all of them currently serving, along with all Marine veterans present with us, who are able to stand, to please do so, for a moment of recognition.  (PAUSE)  My thanks go to them, as well as my heartfelt appreciation to all here this evening who serve or have served in uniform, for your commitment and sacrifices.  We recognize and appreciate your dedication, professionalism, and bravery.

The presence of our Marine Security Guards here at U.S. Embassy Colombo offers a backbone of security and safety that enables us to carry out the vital work of maintaining and strengthening the ties between our two nations.  My team works on wide-ranging issues, including facilitating travel to the United States; nurturing people-to-people ties through international exchanges and cultural programs; bolstering our economic interchange for mutual prosperity; enhancing security cooperation; discussing shared human rights goals; and promoting good governance.  I know that our guests here this evening also share in these efforts, working tirelessly to further our bilateral ties.  On behalf of all of us, I wish the Marine Corps a very happy 247th birthday—thank you, and Semper Fidelis.