Ambassador Palmer Remarks at the Marine Ball

Ambassador Palmer Remarks at the Marine Ball
November 11, 2023

As prepared for delivery


Honorable Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta
Honorable Minister for Lands and Natural Resources Samuel Abdulai Jinapor
Honorable Deputy Minister for Defence Kofi Amankwah-Manu
Chief of Defence Staff Vice Admiral Seth Amoama
Chief of Army Staff Major General Thomas Oppong-Peprah
Chief of Air Staff Air Vice Marshall Frederick Asare Bekoe
Chief of Naval Staff  Rear Admiral Issah Yakubu
Senior officials, fellow diplomats and friends

As part of these protocols and because this is a military celebration, please allow me, Admiral Amoama, to, through you, celebrate the incredibly important role of the Ghana Armed Forces – you are terrific partners for the American military, brilliant peacekeepers, and a model of a professional military subordinate to civilian rule, something ever more important as we see democratic backsliding all around the region.

We’re honored to have so many Ghanaian leaders with us tonight to celebrate the 248th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps – yes the Marine Corps is older than the United States!    I love that we’re all dressed up to celebrate – and you’re looking GOOD – but I think it’s important to appreciate that over the years – and even today, Marines have gathered in dreadful… and dangerous conditions, not in fancy ballrooms but on the sides of muddy hills, sometimes under enemy fire, to celebrate this birthday.

Last year I told a lot of jokes about how tough the Marines are, likening them to “rotweilers or Dobermans – big and mean or skinny and mean” (many a truth in jest!).  But since our celebration this year falls on the anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of “war to end all wars” but fighting still rages in Ukraine and the Middle East, I want to be more serious.  As we pray for peace and an end to the suffering of innocent civilians, I want to talk a little about how Marines are warriors not killers.  Arguably the most elite of the most elite fighting force the world has ever known, the Marines are a force that seeks to maintain peace and ensure security through deterrence, peacekeeping operations, or if necessary armed conflict, capable of wielding deadly violence but violence intended not for conquest but to restore peace.

I’d like to shine a light on our Marine Security Guard detachment.  Fewer than 1% of Marines are chosen for this duty.  2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Marine Security Guard program.   This past August we marked the 25th anniversary of the bombings of our Embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.  This month marks the 44th anniversary of the attack on the American Embassy in Islamabad where a Marine Security guard lost his life.  In December it will be 19 years since our Consulate in Jeddah was attacked.  It has been a short two years since the evacuation from Afghanistan.  In each of these, Marines Security Guards ran towards the danger while helping others out of it.

Our Marine Security Guard Detachment here at US Embassy Accra are our “Ambassadors in Blue.”  And they personify one of the United States’ greatest strengths – diversity and using the unique talents of each individual.  They hail from New Jersey, Florida, Texas, California, and Missouri.  While they are diverse in their backgrounds, they are united as Marines.  E pluribus Unum – out of many, one.  Please join me in recognizing

Gunnery Sergeant Michael Elias
Sergeant Robert Rodriguez
Sergeant Alejandro Estrada
Sergeant Mark Taboada
Sergeant Luke Spadafora
Lance Corporal Jorge Salas
Lance Corporal Nicholas Velazquez
Private First Class Blake Chandler

And I am proud to announce that three of our eight-member detachment were recently selected for promotion.  Congratulations to Sergeant Rodriguez, Sergeant Estrada, and Sergeant Spadafora!

I’d also like to add a personal note about our Guest of Honor tonight.  Lt Col Vic Maduka.  Vic is of Nigerian heritage, so he takes some grief from me because he doesn’t know good jollof– but he’s an outstanding Defense Attache and Marine aviator.  I trust his judgment and have relied on his counsel.  Vic, you represent the best of the Marine Corps.

We celebrate all of you who have earned the right to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.  As President Ronald Reagan once said, “Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference.  The Marines don’t have that problem.”

“Semper Fi” and Happy Birthday Marines!