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Transcripts and Remarks

Remarks by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry on the Occasion of the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps

November 5, 2010 | U.S. Embassy Kabul

Good evening and thank you for coming tonight.  Let me first say welcome to our guest of honor, Major General Richard Mills,  Commander, Regional Command (Southwest) and the Commanding General, First Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Major General Mills and his Marines at Camp Leatherneck are doing some of the toughest work on this planet, fighting a vicious enemy and partnering with the Afghan government in strategic Helmand province. 

It is a great honor and pleasure for my wife Ching and I to be here to celebrate the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps.  I would like to thank the Marine Security Guard detachment under the command of Detachment Commander Brian Krauser for inviting us to this special occasion.

When the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was reopened on December 17, 2001 after so many years of war, the Marines read a note from the Marine detachment that closed down the Embassy before them in January 31, 1989.   Written by Marine Gunnery Sgt. James M. Blake, the note implored the Marines who would follow him to take care of the flag.  It said "For those of us that were here it means a lot, for those of you yet to enter Kabul, it could mean a lot to you."

So on that day in December, as the Embassy was opened again for the first time and that same American flag once again raised to the top of the flagpole, the Marines read more of Gunnery Sgt. Blake's advice aloud:   "Semper fi.  We Kabul Marines endured, as I'm sure you will." 

And those Marines do endure.  On that day in 2001, it was only a skeleton crew of U.S. diplomats working out of the dilapidated embassy building with a small group of Marine guards watching over.  No one at the ceremony that day could have predicted that ten years later the U.S. Embassy in Kabul would be the largest embassy in the world with more than 1100 brave and dedicated civilians here, from 16 agencies and working next to their military counterparts in 30 provinces. 

Yet these ten years later the Marines are still the heart of this Mission as they were the day the embassy reopened, and they have been witness to and participated in making history here in Kabul.     

The success of our mission in Afghanistan is critical for the people of America and Afghanistan.  The Marine Guards protect not only the embassy but also the people who work tirelessly everyday to support the most important foreign policy objective of President Obama and the United States Government.  

The Marine Corps has a long history of cooperation with the Department of State.   From the raising of the United States flag at Derna, Tripoli to the Boxer Rebellion at Peking, Marines have served many times for embassies or protecting American citizens. 

And from the battle of Trenton to the Argone, Marines have won honor in war, and in long eras of tranquility at home worked to ensure Americans enjoy peace and security. 

So tonight we celebrate the accomplishments of the U.S. Marines, to show our appreciation for their service and to pay tribute to those who have served and given the greatest sacrifice in defense of our great nation. So let us joyfully join together in this celebration, to honor the fighting spirit and great camaraderie of U.S. Marines.   I would now like to read a message from Secretary of State Clinton sent for our Marines tonight: 

"I am honored to send Marines around the world the best wishes of the men and women of the Department of State on the 235th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps.  You have our deep respect and gratitude for the courage, dedication to duty, and willingness to sacrifice that Marines have consistently demonstrated throughout your long and distinguished history.  On this occasion, I extend a special thanks to all who serve or have served as Marine Security Guards.  Without you, the State Department could not succeed in its mission to carry out U.S. foreign policy.   Since 1946, Marines have guarded our nation's embassies and consulates, protecting diplomats and government resources overseas.  Marine Security Guards are not only our first line of defense, they are often the first American that visitors encounter at our embassies.  As such, Marines also represent the welcoming face of the United States to foreign citizens and governments.  During embassy emergencies, Marine Security Guards have been a steadfast support in the face of civil unrest, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks.  The challenges of protecting our diplomatic missions overseas are greater than ever and we at the State Department are proud to have you as partners in our diplomacy and security abroad.  For Americans working far from home, often in dangerous parts of the world, knowing that Marines are standing post everyday is a welcome comfort.   The close cooperation between the State Department and the Marine Corps has grown even greater in recent years.  State Department personnel proudly serve alongside U.S. Marines in combat zones, from Anbar Province in Iraq to Helmand Province in Afghanistan.  We rely on the courage and professionalism that is the hallmark of the U.S. Marines to operate in these difficult places.  As we celebrate this 235th anniversary, we honor the Marines who continue to advance U.S. foreign policy interests around the world, and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

I salute the valiant men and women of the U.S. Marine Corp - all who have served, and all who have fallen - for your faithful dedication to our country.  Time and time again, you have proven "Semper Fidelis" to be more than a motto.  For United States Marines, it is a way of life.

Happy Birthday, Marines.  Semper Fi."