His Excellency Seny Pierre Fofana, Ambassador, Chief of Cabinet, representing the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad,
My Embassy colleagues and families,
Good afternoon and welcome.
May we first pause for a moment of silence to honor the passing of Ambassador Simon Henshaw.
After the passing of Ambassador Henshaw, the U.S. Embassy staff honored the Ambassador by planting a tree in his name. Behind me is this tree, and I hope that following this ceremony you will take the opportunity to pass by the tree for a moment of reflection.
I would like to welcome you to our celebration of the 245th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. We take this opportunity to thank our Marine Security Guard Detachment for their professionalism, perseverance, and untiring devotion to duty.
Through the many hardships they faced over this uniquely difficult year, the Detachment continued to perform in an exemplary manner, in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
In this period of a global pandemic, our Marines did not have the luxury of teleworking much like the rest of the embassy. They remained at their posts throughout, ensuring that the Embassy and those working in it were well protected.
This year also brought significant upheaval and unrest which at times came very close to the embassy, requiring the Marines to be ready to respond. While this year has brought about great challenges previously not experienced by many, our Marines performed admirably and with great sacrifice.
Above all, this year brought great sadness to our community with the passing of Ambassador Henshaw. Here too our Marines were ready and responded by serving as his honor guard and standing watch over him until he could return home.
On June 11, the Marines assisted in transferring Ambassador Henshaw’s remains to the U.S. Embassy. They honored the Ambassador with dignity and respect and stood watch over his casket throughout the night.
On June 12, this same group of young Marines facilitated the transfer of the Ambassador’s remains from the Embassy to the airport. At the airport, they provided an Honor Guard and a ramp ceremony to commemorate the Ambassador who was loved and respected by all in the community.
These Marines had very little training as an honor guard. However, understanding the magnitude of the circumstances, they prepared nonstop for over 36 hours leading to the ceremony. Their efforts resulted in providing Ambassador Henshaw a fitting final honor in Guinea before his return home.
Throughout my Foreign Service career, the Marine Corps Birthday Ball is the most anticipated social event of the year, and I am sorry that we cannot hold one this year. There have been only a few times in my experience that the Ball was cancelled, usually because of significant unrest or political strife, but this is the first time for me, as well as all of us, that the ball had to be canceled because of a pandemic.
However, even though a pandemic may stop our Marine Corps Ball from taking place this year, nothing will stop our Marines from celebrating their birthday, even the most austere environments. And it is at these times that this ceremony is the most poignant.
I am therefore pleased that they can celebrate in front of our Embassy community, Guinean friends, and our colleagues representing our NATO allies.
Happy Birthday Marines!