Thanksgiving - Pause and Reflect.

11/24/2010 12:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My co-worker Ronnie Davis recently worked on the United States Marine's 235th Birthday Ball. What follows is a brief account of his experience. Regardless of our political opinions and differences, we are united in support of the men and women who represent our country, especially those in harm's way. While we spend the holiday with family and friends, in the safety of our homes and communities, we give thanks to this dedicated group of Americans.

"The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others."... Mahatma Gandhi

When Liz founded Great Performances, her concept was simple: "Artists as Waitresses." The company was born with the mantra of service. No one foresaw that we would evolve into the multi-faceted Catering and Events Company we are today, but that simple premise still rules. Service is not just an art, but an honor, and this was never quite as exemplified as during an event we did last week. We had the privilege of catering the 235th Birthday Ball for the United States Marines. It matters not what your politics are, or whether you support the current wars that we are fighting, one fact is indisputable...The Unites States Marine Corps possesses the finest collection of men and women dedicated to serving this country without any question. And in light of their daily sacrifice and the danger they face, our daily concerns seem trite in comparison.
The project started simply enough, with a phone call from Patti Golden of Evelyn Hill, our strategic partners at Ellis Island. SSgt Daniel A. Valdes of the 6th Communications Battalion of the USMC had been given the task of making the 235th Birthday Ball work on Ellis Island with a rather limited budget. We invited SSgt Valdes to bring his Commanding Officers, Lt Col Harold Eggers and Battalion Commander Lt Col Mark Bacharach, and his committee to Great Performances' Mae Mae Café for lunch to discuss the event, and the teamwork with GP started. "What do you serve Marines for lunch?" I asked the culinary team. "Short ribs and mashed potatoes," they immediately responded. "Apple pie and ice cream," added the pastry department. And so it was. At 1300 hours on the appointed day, the delegation of nine Marines accompanied by Lt Col Eggers and SSgt Valdes arrived at Mae Mae Café. All of them had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan and one was actually retiring right after the ball. We exchanged stories and life experiences and the time flew by too quickly, but at the conclusion of lunch I knew we had to make this event work regardless of the budget constraints. The people this committee represented stood for everything we believe in on a deeper level....pride and dignity in the service of others. After several weeks of deal making, arm twisting, and good old fashioned Jewish guilt, the event was in place.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."...Winston Churchill

The night of the Ball, I worked closely with Sergeant Major John Canty, who stood around six foot five, in calling the room to order. Just being next to him we all stood a little taller and had a bit more spring in our step. Unbeknownst to me, our lead chef that night, Kris Kaminski, is an ex-Marine, so he was honored to cut the cake for the ceremonial serving. The first piece went to the oldest Marine in the room (86 years old); the second piece to the youngest (19 years old). The ceremony was moving and our staff watched silently as it unfolded. I thought about how my father would have loved to have seen this. He was one of those brave souls who charged Normandy Beach on D-Day during World War II. In a way, I felt that I was honoring him by helping this event honor these Marines and those before them.
One of the most compelling parts of the evening is the setting of a table with a chair tilted in, a black candle, a purple heart, and a sword--keeping a place for those marines who fell in service to their country; Marines always remember their own. I returned to my daily life with a renewed spirit and sense of what is really important...and added pride in the fact that I am lucky to be able to do what I do for a living.
Looking forward to being of service ...
Ronnie Davis

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." ... Albert Einstein