KABUL, Afghanistan --
In recognition of his service alongside U.S. Marines throughout a highly distinguished 41-year diplomatic career, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker received the title of Honorary Marine at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters, July 22.
"I am deeply, deeply touched," said Crocker following the surprise announcement, which came during a farewell dinner in his honor as he prepares to conclude his tour in Afghanistan and retire from the U.S. Foreign Service. "Those of you who know me, know how deeply attached I am to the Marine Corps. There has always been -- my whole career -- a special bond between me and the United States Marine Corps."
Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of the 50-nation ISAF coalition, presided over the ceremony. He was flanked by a phalanx of Leathernecks, including the Marines who guard the U.S. embassy in Kabul and who nominated the ambassador for the title. They presented Crocker with his Honorary Marine certificate and pinned a solid-gold Eagle, Globe and Anchor - the storied Marine emblem - to his lapel.
"We are honored to have you with us, in our Corps," Allen said."For we Marines, we take very, very seriously the legacy of our Corps and what it means to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. [This pin] is only given to Honorary Marines."
Approved exclusively by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the honor recognizes individuals in the civilian community who have made extraordinary contributions to the Corps. Crocker is the 75th person to receive the title.
The ambassador, who was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut during the bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983, has taken a personal interest in the Marines serving with the security detachments at U.S. embassies. During the 1990's, Crocker continued to work alongside Marines while variously serving as the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria.
"There is a special relationship between the United States Foreign Service and the Marines," Crocker said. "You have guarded our embassies since the end of World War II. We have celebrated together, we have sacrificed together."
In January 2002, when he came to Afghanistan to re-open the American Embassy in Kabul as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, the ambassador was defended by the Marines of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. From there, he went on to serve alongside Marines in Baghdad and Pakistan before returning to Kabul in July 2011.
"Thank you. Thank you for thinking of me," the ambassador said. "Thank you for knowing what the most important thing there could possibly be to me would be. I knew about Honorary Marines, but I never dreamed I would be one."