Donald Fahey was invited to the 243rd United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball in North Carolina where he had the high honor of being presented the first slice of the Marines’ birthday cake.
Mr. Fahey joined the United States Marine Corps in 1967, serving two tours of duty during the Vietnam War through 1970 while earning several medals of commendation. In the 51 years since that service, Mr. Fahey had never attended the U.S. Marine Ball.
How he finally received the coveted invitation begins with Mr. Fahey’s daughter, Karen Brown, and her son, Darius.
Darius was a North Shore Christian School classmate of Moises Funes. When Moises was in the eighth grade, he asked Mr. Fahey if he could get him a Marine Corps backpack for school.
“I told him, ‘Moises, I know where you’re going to end up, you’re an eighth grader and you’re already looking for that type of gift. You’re going to end up in the Marine Corps.’”
Moises Funes is now a proud member of the United States Marines. When Funes graduated from Parris Island, he invited Mr. Fahey to be in attendance at the ceremony. Funes presented his role model with his hat.
Funes, now a sergeant in the U.S. Marines, married Casey Amber, who is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Casey informed me that I was going to be her date at the Marine Birthday Ball, which was held in December,” said Mr. Fahey. “The ball is usually held in November but Casey’s unit (Helicopter) was deployed into Italy and they didn’t get back until December.”
A tremendous reception
from his fellow Marines
Mr. Fahey was welcomed with open arms by the young Marines at the celebration. At the age of 70, he was the oldest Marine in attendance.
“The tradition is that the oldest Marine gets the first slice from the birthday cake,” said Mr. Fahey. “The oldest Marine then presents the second slice of cake to the youngest Marine, which I gave to 18-year-old Tiffany Roberts, who is stationed at Camp Lejeune.”
Interestingly, Roberts is from Rochester, N.Y., where Mr. Fahey used to live.
There were other unexpected honors for Mr. Fahey, his daughter, Karen, and her husband, Brent, who accompanied him on the memorable journey.
“When I got there, they had a dress blue Marine uniform, which I’ve never had,” said Mr. Fahey.
Most impressive of all were the many medals that adorned the uniform. In recognition of his distinguished career in Vietnam, Mr. Fahey received the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Four Battle Stars, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal
“He so humble about everything,” said his daughter, Karen. “When he was invited to the Marine Ball, he didn’t even tell my family about it. My husband and I learned about his invitation and wondered why he hadn’t informed anyone. I called my dad, and he said to me, ‘Karen, the Marine Corps Ball is on your birthday and I figured you’d want to do something on your birthday.”
Karen responded, “That would be the best birthday present I could ever have, for you to go to the Marine Corps Ball when you’ve never gone in 51 years.”
Both Karen and Brent Brown were able to attend the Ball and be a part of the celebration.
“It was just incredible,” said Karen. “The thing I liked the most is how much respect and honor they gave to my father. They couldn’t wait to surprise him with the dress blue uniform. I feel that’s the way we should treat all of our veterans. I’m always telling people you should thank our veterans.”
Mr. Fahey remains in close contact with Moises and Casey Funes, considering them both as members of his extended family.
An award at Fenway Park
This past season Mr. Fahey was invited on the field at Fenway Park for a veterans’ celebration, receiving a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. He was the recipient of a special medal at a post-event celebration.
“It was so emotional,” said Karen Brown. “I was in my living room crying because I could see my dad on the TV screen.”
Growing up in Lynn
Mr. Fahey grew up in McDonough Square in Lynn. He attended St. Patrick’s School and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1966. St. Mary’s recognizes Mr. Fahey’s service in the Marines each year at its Veterans Day program. Two years ago, Mr. Fahey was the featured speaker at his alma mater.
Mr. Fahey is a member of the Essex County Marine Corps League Detachment No. 127, participating in the rifle salute and bugle playing at veterans’ funerals.
Looking back on the amazing tribute he received at the Marine Corps Ball, Mr. Fahey said simply and in his typically modest manner, “It was a great experience.”