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Marine Corps birthday dinner

Kerby Moore

A local group of U.S. Marine Corps veterans self-nicknamed the “Farmville Jarheads” will hold an open-to-the-public banquet Nov. 9 in celebration of the Marine Corps’ 244th birthday.

Kerby Moore, a local veteran and representative of the group, explained the significance behind the annual gathering.

“Marines all-around the world — it’s not just Farmville, but all around the world — celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. It’s a big, big deal,” said Moore.

The birthday banquet will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in a private room at Charley’s Waterfront Cafe and Wine Bar. The annual event will feature a buffet for $30 a person.

Moore explained in an interview with The Herald that the event is open to all, especially local Marine Corps veterans. He also stated that this year’s birthday celebration will feature guest speaker John Sigman, a retired Marine and crew chief of presidential helicopter Marine One. Moore cited that Sigman personally served with presidents like Ronald Raegan, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

“We have a program,” explained Moore. “We sing the Marine’s Hymn. We listen to the commandant’s message. We do a little history lesson. At the end of the evening, the biggest tradition is that the oldest Marine in the group cuts the Marine Corps cake and serves it to the youngest Marine in the group. It symbolizes passing the tradition; passing the old Marine Corps over to the new Marine Corps. So, there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance and tradition that we do, and personally I think a good time is had by all.”

Moore added that the banquet will also be an opportunity for attendees to donate to this year’s Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserves in order to gather and distribute Christmas toys for children in need.

Additionally, Moore alluded to the group’s relaxed and casual atmosphere. “We’re not an official Marine Corps League of any sort,” he explained. “We’re just a local group … The thing is, the way we do it is very informal. There are no dues. You just come. We don’t have any officer positions, you know. It’s not like we have a president or vice president. It’s very loose.”

Moore added that the only money involved in being a part of the Farmville Jarheads is the $30 cost for the birthday banquet. “The only thing that’s ever a charge is for this dinner that we’re doing once a year, and even what we’re charging doesn’t cover expenses. Luckily, we’ve got a couple of Marines who say, ‘Hey, you know, whatever you come up short, we’ll make up the difference.’ And so, it’s being subsidized, even at $30 a head.”

In his interview, Moore emphasized that much of the work in putting together this event was done by a friend, John Arsenault. “He’s a huge help. I was only in the Marines for a little while, but he had a full career,” said Moore. “He’s a hard worker. He deserves credit for what he does.”

Moore also highlighted his desire to locate more local Marines in order to reach out and offer them a place among the group and at the banquet.

“We’re looking for all Marines to come join us,” Moore said. “I’ve been at this for several years now, and my database is only 30-40 Marines. I just feel in my bones that there has to be more than that.”

“My favorite thing is this,” Moore stated in reference to past annual banquets, “I’m reminded that you don’t have to go see a comic book movie to see real heroes. Real heroes are around us all the time, we just don’t even know it. We’ve had people come to our meetings who are WWII veterans, they served at Guadalcanal, they served in the Pacific, they were WWII dive bombers. I mean people who are just absolutely true, honest-to-goodness heroes who have medals and they just are so modest that they don’t talk about it, and yet they’re sitting right beside you at these events.”

“It’s humbling,” Moore continued. “I get goosebumps, I get a lump in my throat, I get teary-eyed every time I get the privilege to shake their hands.”