November 18, 2022
Good evening and very warm welcome. It is a privilege and a pleasure to join you all this evening in marking the 247e anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps. Throughout its illustrious history, the Marine Corps has been involved in the work of American diplomacy. The longstanding relationship between the Marine Corps and the State Department was formally deepened in 1948 with the advent of the Marine Security Guard program. Today, Maritime Security Guards serve in U.S. diplomatic missions in more than 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 the Embassy in Colombo currently includes two Marines from my state of California, as well as others from Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, Missouri and Florida . These Marines from across the country embody one of America’s greatest strengths, our willingness to embrace diversity and leverage 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 day, no matter what time I arrive at the office or at what time am I leaving.
It comforts me to know that they are on guard, just as uniformed American 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 handing out wonderful Hershey’s Kisses chocolates, a first little taste of the United States, which was to become our home. years later. As a little reminder of the optimism our country has sparked in my family, even during the challenges of the Korean War, there are Hershey’s kisses on every table tonight – may they bring you a smile of gratitude, recalling the times when the United States inspired hope in you too. I was blessed to grow up with a world of opportunity as an immigrant to the United States and pursued a career in diplomacy. As diplomats, we share with our military colleagues a strong ethic of service and a commitment to achieving our nation’s highest democratic ideals. We know what it’s like to be away from home and we gladly accept any challenges that come with it because we have a strong sense of mission. We come together to build a supportive community with our compatriots nearby. Here we are especially fortunate to have wonderful Sri Lankan colleagues and friends who are part of our support network.
We all take care of each other. In the case of our Marine Safety Officers, they are also our first responders in tragic circumstances. They are the ones who run towards danger as others flee 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 made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our diplomatic facilities and our colleagues. That so many talented young men and women of the Navy know these dangers, yet willingly accept the task of defending embassies and consulates around the world, is a testament to their courage, preparation and skill. The valor of the United States Marines brings honor to our nation.
The Nov. 10 Marine Corps birthday falls on the eve of Veterans Day. I would like to take a moment now to thank the Marines and ask all those who are currently serving, as well as all veterans of the Marines present with us, who are able to stand, please do so. please, for a moment of recognition. (PAUSE) My thanks go to them, as well as my deep gratitude to all who are here tonight who serve or have served in uniform, for your commitment and your sacrifices. We recognize and appreciate your dedication, professionalism and bravery.
The presence of our maritime security guards here at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo provides a backbone of security and safety that allows us to carry out the vital work of maintaining and strengthening the bond between our two nations. My team works on a wide variety of topics, including facilitating travel to the United States; nurture people-to-people ties through international exchanges and cultural programs; strengthen our economic exchanges for mutual prosperity; strengthen security cooperation; discuss common human rights goals; and the promotion of good governance. I know that our guests here this evening are also participating in these efforts, working tirelessly to deepen our bilateral relations. On behalf of all of us, I wish the Marine Corps a very happy 247e birthday—thank you, and Semper Fidelis.