DELRAY BEACH, Florida — U.S. Marine Commandant General David H. Berger of the Marine Corps is angry with one of his units in South Florida after the unit planned to hold its annual military ball at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Newsweek has learned.
The four-star general is upset with leaders of 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) in West Palm Beach, Florida, from an optics standpoint after the unit booked its annual gala at Mar-a-Lago to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Marines’ founding, said two Defense Department sources who spoke to Newsweek on Friday under condition of anonymity due to Pentagon media restrictions.
A story published in The Miami Herald late Thursday night reported that the unit had posted the location of the ball on Evensi, an events website. The link to purchase tickets was removed as of Friday.
A Google-cached version of the page shows the event was scheduled to be hosted at Mar-a-Lago on November 16, 2019, from 8:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
“Since 10 November 1775, United States Marines have been forged in toil, fire, and blood; we, today’s Marines, are the manifestation of nearly two and a half centuries of their sweat and sacrifice,” said the event posting.
“This November, let us together express our gratitude to those who came before, honor the devotion of those who gave the full measure, and revel in the Company of our brothers and sisters who live to defend the Constitution for one more day.”
Contacted by the Herald late Thursday, an unidentified U.S. Marine associated with the unit said the event was “a work in progress.”
“We are planning on Mar-a-Lago but nothing is set in stone. We booked it but there were complications involved. … It’s just money and some other things. We’re doing our best,” the Marine said, adding, that a final decision would be made next week.
Major Roger Hollenbeck, a spokesman for Marine Forces Reserve, said the Marine Corps is aware the South Florida Marine unit is considering holding their birthday ball at Mar-a-Lago.
“As is the case every year, birthday ball venues are explored by committee to
determine the best available option. 4th ANGLICO is considering many
locations for this year’s birthday ball but is not yet committed to any
specific venue,” said Hollenbeck. “Irrespective of the chosen venue, no tax-payer dollars will be spent on the ball.”
The celebration of the Marines’ founding dates back to 1921 when then-General John A. Lejeune, issued an order which summarized the history and hallmarks of the Corps and directed that Marines be read the order each year to honor the service on November 10th—when the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines in 1775. The first official birthday was held in Philadelphia in 1925, according to the Marine Corps Historical Society.
Marine Corps balls are structured around two distinct parts: an official ceremony, where military equipment and appropriated taxpayer funds can be used, and a social function, which typically is paid for by private fundraising associations or the Marines themselves through off-base fundraising.
While the annual Marine Corps ball would not normally garner national news, the venue booking comes at a time when the Trump Organization and the president himself are facing scrutiny over taxpayer and foreign-government spending at their properties in what gives the appearance of a quid pro quo for Oval Office access and influence.
Politico reported this month an investigation is underway after U.S. Air Force crews were lodged at the Trump Organization resort in Scotland. The New York Times reported on how Trump’s official duties as president as align with his commercial interests as a businessman.
Watchdog groups and members of Congress have grown concerned about the Pentagon moving away from its apolitical stance under the Trump administration. In May, the U.S. Navy said it was evaluating if sailors aboard the USS Wasp, a multipurpose amphibious assault ship, violated Pentagon policy by wearing unofficial uniform patches with the phrase “Make Aircrew Great Again” when Trump visited the vessel during Memorial Day.
Update: 9/20, 9:09 p.m. EST: This article has been updated from its original version to include a statement Newsweek received from the U.S. Marine Corps.
James LaPorta reports on national security and the Defense Department for Newsweek. He is a former U.S. Marine infantryman. You can follow him on Twitter @JimLaPorta.