“A Marine is a Marine... There's no such thing as a former Marine. You’re a Marine, just in a different uniform and you’re in a different phase of your life. But you’ll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico.” General James Amos
The US Marine Corps Ball in Singapore celebrated the 243rd birthday of the Corps in November. This year, the celebration included the Honorary Promotion of a very special Marine, long-time resident of Singapore and US Marine Corps veteran of World War II, Sergeant William ‘Bill’ Hook.
Bill is well known in the community for his endless contributions and support to the military community. His devotion to duty inspired three Marines at the Embassy, Lieutenant Colonel Howard Eyth, Gunnery Sergeant Leandros Rubio and Mr. Francisco Barrios to honor him for his outstanding representation of the Corps’ values of honor, courage, commitment and for his mentorship to the young, non-commissioned officers who work at the Embassy’s Marine Security Detachment (MSD).
The path to promotion began with Gunny Rubio and Mr. Barrios’ plan to purchase a Marine Dress Blue uniform for Bill to wear at the Ball. Lt. Col Eyth, upon hearing of their desire to honor him proposed that they also request an honorary promotion.
It was a daunting task that faced them, to work their way through the US government bureaucracy to move Bill from the Corporal he had been when he left service in 1946, to Sergeant. Although unfamiliar with the process, they were going to tackle it like the Sands of Iwo Jima.
Utilizing mission planning skills honed in the Corps, they conducted intelligence preparation of the battlefield, wrote the operational plan and created their operations order for their task force. As they began the execution of their plan, they built a coalition, reaching out to both old and new contacts, with guidance from high level visitors traveling through Singapore.
No plan survives first contact with the enemy, but the team got a break from a Marine who worked in the Commandant’s Office. The Commandant had been briefed on Bill’s case and, in principle, approved of the honorary promotion.
The biggest obstacle for this promotion was the initiation of the process. It required a US Senator or Congressman to write a letter to the Secretary of the Navy requesting consideration of an honorary promotion. The Marines were not swayed as they had been taught to be able to overcome any obstacle. They would “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” by utilizing a connection to Senator Van Hollen from Maryland to achieve this task.
With the clock ticking our three stalwart Marines did not think the promotion would meet their timing. They needed the Secretary of the Navy to endorse the promotion.
This issue was solved by a key member of the coalition, the US Embassy’s Chargé d'affaires, Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath, who came forward to offer her help to move the process along. She inquired of the Secretary of the Navy about Bill’s promotion package. Three days after the Chargé’s inquiry and with only one week to the ball, the team was notified that the promotion would happen.
These three Marines and their deep regard for history, traditions and honor exemplified the Corp’s "Esprit de Corps". Their dedication to Sergeant Bill Hook to honor his service reflected the motto of the Marine Corps, “Semper Fidelis" – “Always Faithful”. As one former Marine once said, "Marines pride themselves on their mission and steadfast dedication to accomplish it." Ooo Rah, Devil Dogs!
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