This was my experience at a military gala. Your experience MAY be different from mine.
On December 19, 2018, I went to a holiday party hosted by an association Franklin is a part of. They advertised a military gala that would be taking place in the future and it happened to be where I will be getting married.
Sometime in February 2019, Franklin’s mess dress uniform arrived from a company called Marlow White. Marlow White is known for selling Class A uniforms (known to the general public as “dress blues”) and Mess Dress uniforms. We didn’t know anything was wrong with the uniform at the time. The reason why I made him buy a mess dress uniform is because he will be wearing his Class A uniform for our wedding and I don’t want to see him in that uniform until I’m walking down that aisle. No one I’m inviting knows about my blog so they won’t have that surprise spoiled.
March 23, 2019: We attended a military gala. It was our first time attending. I have never been to one, and the closest thing that Franklin went to were some dine-ins.
In short, everything happened in the following order:
- Check-in and finding tables
- Formal ceremony
I’ll do my best to mention what happened in the formal ceremony, but Franklin has the program so I might miss something. We also did not have a receiving line. Not every military ball or gala has one.
When we got to the venue, we checked in and found our table number. However, we couldn’t go into the banquet room until 7 PM (1900). When we were allowed in, there were boys who seemed to be of the preteen to young teen age escorting everyone to their tables. Our table was right by the buffet, which is what Franklin wanted.
The formal ceremony started at 7:30 PM (1930). This started with opening remarks. Next, some members of a nearby college’s ROTC presented the colors. “Colors” refers to a flag and there will be people holding a flag (in our case, the American flag, the army flag, and the air force flag) or a rifle. Here’s an example of a presentation of the colors. Unlike in the video, we did not state the Pledge of Allegiance, though that may happen where you attend. Someone sang the National Anthem instead. You also stand at this point and look at the color guard when they march.
After the singing of the National Anthem, someone did a prayer. You are still standing for this part.
I believe the next part is where we had the most solemn part of the evening: the fallen soldier table (or the fallen comrade table, or the missing man table, or whatever else they may call it). You’ll sit back down for this part and you can only toast to the fallen with glasses of water. People will speak and place items on a small round table. A bell may be rung after each time the military members say “Remember”. Here’s the symbolism at the table (in this order, source from Wikipedia):
- A small round table set for one (or more than one, depending on if you’re representing one person or all of the military branches) symbolizing the isolation of the absent service member
- The table is round to represent the everlasting
- A white tablecloth on the table symbolizing the purity of a service member’s intentions to respond to the country’s call to arms
- A single rose symbolizing the faith the family members who kept their faith while waiting for their family member’s return
- A red ribbon symbolizing the service member’s love of their country
- A slice of lemon symbolizing the bitter fate of the missing service member
- Salt sprinkled onto a bread plate symbolizing the tears shed by families who waited for their family member to come home, but didn’t
- An inverted glass symbolizing how the missing and fallen are unable to partake with us
- This is also the reason why you cannot toast with alcohol. The fallen cannot partake in alcohol
- A lit candle symbolizing the light of hope which lives in the hearts of many to light the way home
Sometimes, there is a Bible symbolizing the spiritual strength to sustain the lost. We did not have a Bible. We toasted, and the service members stood up while someone played Taps. I remember at some point, they sang the armed forces songs for the army and air force (it was a National Guard gala). I would like to apologize to the people who heard Franklin sing. Even he knows he can’t sing.
Before it was time to eat, the Mess Call was made. This may not happen with you. While dinner was supposed to start at 7:50 PM (1950), dinner started later. Maybe because the formal part of the ceremony ended late? I wasn’t constantly looking at my watch. There was also time between the formal ceremony and dinner, for some reason. Don’t know why.
While we waited for dinner to start, we took a professional picture with a photographer. Because the lighting in the banquet hall was dim, the picture looked horrible. Franklin looked angry and I looked like I had gaps in my teeth and looked like my eyelids were bruises. That was a waste of $15 and we had to pay before getting our pictures taken.
Dinner finally starts and they start telling tables to get their food. When it was our turn to get dinner, we were told to get food from the tables further away from us since there was less of a line. I looked at the buffet menu on the back of the program and my worry that none of the entrees would be something I could eat happened. I was mentally prepared for it. The only things I could eat (due to pickiness) were one of the chef carved options and both sides. The food was good and I got up to dance before I finished eating. When I came back minutes later, my plate was gone! I was pretty angry about that and even (POLITELY) told a nearby waitress about it. She was nice enough to get me a plate of what was on my plate that I didn’t finish eating (it was just turkey). I should have gotten her name so I could publicly commend her somewhere. Maybe she’d be rewarded with an extra scoop of ice cream or something. Seeing as how someone warned in a Google review that people at this venue have taken plates before people were done and I am having my wedding at this venue, I will need to warn people to not get up until they finished eating.
Backing up a little bit, I will tell the tale of Marlow White’s fuck up. After taking our pictures and while we were waiting for our turn to get food, someone went up to Franklin and was talking to him about something. After the conversation, I asked him what the conversation was about.
MARLOW WHITE SENT FRANKLIN THE WRONG PANTS!!!
Franklin is supposed to have dark blue pants with ONE yellow stripe going down the leg, which is for commissioned officers. Franklin was given black pants and TWO yellow stripes going down the leg, which is for generals. Marlow White saw that he didn’t have General in his rank. Reading is fundamental! Franklin will be getting a return label to return his incorrect pants and the correct pants. He will no longer be a Marlow White customer and will instead go to a Post Exchange that has military clothing and will buy any uniform pieces he needs in-person.
I later had fun dancing with my dad’s co-worker, who is a Senior NCO and was honestly the only reason I had any bit of fun. You see, when something goes wrong, it ruins a day or event for me. Marlow White fucking up started to ruin my time at the gala, and then the plate was taken from me, and then I saw how horrible the picture turned out. I was honestly ready to go home.
So would I go to another gala? I’m not sure, to be honest. The things that went wrong left an impression that this will happen again.