Ambassador Julie J Chung’s Remarks at the 2023 U.S. Marine Corps Birthday Ball

November 18, 2023

Good evening and a very warm welcome to our guest speaker Brigadier General Adam Chalkley, Honorable Sagala Ratnayaka, Chief of Staff to the President and National Security Advisor, Honorable Ministers, Your Excellencies, all military dignitaries, distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends.  It’s a privilege and a pleasure to join all of you on the occasion of the 248th anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps, a day that not only commemorates a storied history but also celebrates the deep relationships and shared investments that make our mission and our work together possible.

As we gather tonight, we do so to celebrate more than two centuries of Marine Corps tradition, honor, and dedication to the principles that make our nation and its diplomatic mission superb. This anniversary serves as a reminder of the enduring values that have defined the Marine Corps and, I think, that also have helped to shape the 75 year relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka.  Our nations share democratic values, and our people share the trait of resilience—whether in the face of economic hardship, natural disaster, or threats to our safety.  The work of the U.S. Marine Corps—and the sustained U.S.-Sri Lanka security cooperation—are rooted in shared purpose and aims.

At its core, the Marine Corps is steeped in the virtues of honor, courage, and commitment. These are not just words, but principles lived and breathed by the men and women who proudly wear the uniform. They exemplify valor, facing adversity head-on, and demonstrating unwavering commitment to the mission. These qualities, which have been the hallmark of the Marine Corps for 248 years, represent the very best in all of us. I was talking to General Chalkley who represents that very best and I thanked him for his years of service as a marine all around the world. I am so happy to welcome you here, to your very first Marine Ball at an Embassy, General.

Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Marine Corps, we also recognize the vital role of our embassy Marines in our mission here in Sri Lanka. Hailing from California, Florida, Nevada, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Illinois, our Marine Corps detachment’s unwavering dedication is a source of pride and an essential part of our mission’s success.  Representatives of our detachment on duty are the first and last people I see at the Embassy every single day, no matter how early I come into the office or how late I leave.  These brave individuals provide security, strength, and support, and their extraordinary vigilance ensures the integrity of our embassy and the continuation of the diplomatic work that is so important to our two nations.

As a diplomat or a service member, you can never count on being in one place for long enough.  I sure know what it’s like to be far from home.  Our Marines and every member of the Embassy team take on the many challenges associated with that because we have a strong sense of mission, a sense of purpose, a drive to serve our nation and our ideals.  So far from home, it’s important that we come together to build a supportive community together. They’ve volunteered at our Youth Forum, done beach cleanups, and served lunches to colleagues alongside us. Our Marines are an absolutely essential part of that community, that family.  They’re so much like family that next week they’ll be at my place for Thanksgiving again this year.  They’re so much like family that in the time I’ve been here, they’ve pelted me with a round of dodgeball, played basketball with my son and husband, run a 5K together and shared more than a drink or two at our happy hours.  We are family here.

On this 248th anniversary of the Marine Corps, let us pay tribute to the valor, dedication, and service of our embassy Marines. They represent the best of us, embodying the core principles of honor, courage, and commitment. Their presence strengthens the bonds between the United States and Sri Lanka, enhancing our shared history and strengthening our community. While growing up in California, I noticed that whenever we ran across a marine veteran, especially one who had fought in the Korean War, my parents would insist on approaching them, taking their hand, and thanking them for the liberty and freedom they allowed my family to enjoy. And for their daughter to grow up as an immigrant in our adopted homeland to become a U.S. Ambassador. From my family’s personal gratitude and from the gratitude of millions, we honor and thank the marines.

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.  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.

And especially for the detachment here, may this anniversary serve as a reminder of your vital role in our mission and as an occasion to celebrate the deep ties within our Embassy family as well as the broader Sri Lankan community.

On behalf of all of us, I wish the Marine Corps a very happy 248th birthday—thank you, and Semper Fidelis.