I want to share a friend of mine’s essay for an English class. Having been a military spouse for such a long time, and a Navy one at that, there are many traditions that the military, specifically the Navy have. Porsha Vaughan wrote about one that happens every fall called the Khaki ball. I asked her if I could share it with you because she does a wonderful job describing the event. So here it is, thanks Porsha, and congratulations on the A!
By Porsha Vaughan
The United States Navy Khaki Ball is a time-honored event that is greatly anticipated and should be attended with pride. The Khaki Ball is historically held each year to welcome newly pinned Chiefs and their spouses/significant others into the Chief’s community. One of the proudest days in an enlisted sailor’s life is the date in which they don the khaki uniform and join a brotherhood and sisterhood of fellow Chiefs.
The cool evening breeze gently blows my black cocktail dress around my knees as I walk with my husband into the upscale Westin Hotel in Virginia Beach. The lobby is beautiful where friendly and courteous staff members greet us. As we make our way up the glass staircase the aqua colored water feature that trickles down the wall entrances me. We are one of the first couples to arrive and are directed to the area outside of the ballroom for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. My palms are sticky as my nerves start to show in anticipation of meeting so many new people. Not only is this my first time meeting the newly appointed Chiefs, it’s my first time meeting my husband’s coworkers since moving to Virginia a year ago. With each new introduction my nerves are slowly starting to subside and I’m actually enjoying myself. My mind wanders back to only one short year ago when my husband was a newly pinned Chief and he was being welcomed into the Chief’s Mess. Last year’s Khaki Ball was held in a small quaint community center on board Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba which is a stark contrast to this year’s upscale hotel.
The ballroom doors open and we walk inside to be seated. The room is grand and has a warm contemporary feel to it. The tables are covered in crisp white linens, dark blue napkins, modern place settings, bulletins, and keepsake blue glasses with anchors engraved on them. In the front of the room there is a wooden podium and a DJ table. To the left is a table covered with gifts that will be raffled off later on in the night. On the right is a projector screen that is playing a photomontage of the events that this year’s new Chiefs went through during their six weeks of phase two training. Each end of the room has been set up with a buffet of food still covered with silver lids to keep them warm. We take our seats as the Master of Ceremony approaches the podium.
The Master of Ceremony welcomes us to the 2016 Chief Petty Officer Khaki Ball and introduces herself. The room is a sea of khaki uniforms adorned with shiny gold anchors on the collars along with women wearing dresses in various lengths and meticulously done hair and makeup. As we stand for the national anthem, the service members stand at attention with arms stiff by their sides and civilians stand with our hands over our hearts as a token of respect to this great nation we live in. Every head is bowed as the invocation is spoken asking our Lord and Savior to bless us this evening as we celebrate this joyous occasion. We sit down and are told the meaning of the Khaki Ball.
Twenty-nine newly pinned Chief Petty Officers are introduced to us one by one. Each new Chief is introduced by a nickname such as “Father Time” or Baby Boats” given to them during the six weeks of training as well as their rate, rank, and name. The atmosphere in the room is starting to come alive as the DJ turns up the volume and a new song is played for each Chief as they are introduced. The songs have been chosen by the individuals to show how they feel during this special event. While some of them slowly walk in with a swagger in their step, others run or dance across the room reveling in the excitement. One thing remains constant for each of them, they are all applauded and welcomed with shouts of praise into the Chief’s Mess.
The room falls silent as a spotlight is shown on a small round table set for one but is unoccupied. This table occupies a place of dignity as we remember our POW/MIA’s. The Master of Ceremony tells us the meaning behind each item placed on the table. For example, the single rose in the vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return. Silent tears roll down my cheeks while I remember the ultimate sacrifices that past service members and their families endured for our freedom today. The wonderful aroma of prime rib and potatoes begins to fill the room as the lids are lifted off the buffet table signaling it is time to eat. The room begins to fill with small chatter as we form a single file line to fill our plates followed by the scraping of forks as we enjoy our meal.
Shouts of joy and elation start to ring out as each raffle ticket is called and the winner happily walks up to retrieve their prize. The dance floor is full of people moving to the beat of the music as others of us sit back watching the excitement. The night is coming to an end when I realize how blessed I am to take part in such a jubilant occasion deep rooted in tradition from days gone past. A family of brothers and sisters who have made it a life long goal to support and defend this great nation surrounds me.