Bwog was fortunate enough to land two tickets to the 4th Annual Military Ball last weekend, attended by our nation’s finest. With increased respect for the work they do also came some interesting stories.
“And then I punched a car window back when I was on leave in California and I was bleeding and everything. And then I had to run like 13 miles, drinking from sprinklers on the way. Yeah, that was wild.”
We stood in silence. That was definitely not what we were expecting when we asked him for a story.
“You must be very fit,” one of us said finally. He looked pleased with this reaction. We awkwardly wandered away.
To be honest, our initial reason for going to the 4th Annual Veteran’s Ball revolved largely around two things: the venue (the fabulous Gotham Hall, which would definitely be someplace the Joker would target) and the open bar. We weren’t disappointed with either; after checking our coats, we were treated to a glass of wine, a panoramic view of the majestic ballroom, and the best dressed collection of people we had seen since senior prom.
We looked at each other, suddenly aware of our out-of-batteries camera and our cocktail dresses; in a room full of men in military garb and women in floor-length gowns, we were the college kids who had just been drinking vodka and fruit punch out of a water bottle on the 1. A woman in a backless, sequin-covered dress walked past, a man in uniform on her arm. One of us took an iPhone photo of the chandelier and thought about Instagramming it.
We met our car-window-punching friend on the balcony level, holding a glass of wine and evidently friendly enough to talk to two tipsy girls who laughed a little bit when introducing themselves as “reporters.” When asked what we were reporting on, we made broad gestures with our hands. “This. The Ball.” He nodded as if this was a valid answer before offering up his eponymous car-window-punching story. We tentatively agreed to go to an after-party (communicating a message of, “what is happening right now??” to each other with our eyes) and made our way back downstairs.
Although the ball was hosted by the Milvets and co-sponsored by GSSC, the United War Veteran’s Council, and Columbia’s chapter of the Student Veterans of America, it’s important to realize that this wasn’t an undergrad-exclusive event or even a Columbia-exclusive event; from dress-code alone, we would say that 75% of the Ball had either just stepped off a red carpet or come from a presidential inauguration. On that same note, free yourself of the assumption that most of the women in dazzling dresses weren’t veteran badasses, too.
Enter Christine, our glamorous dinner companion, a student at the J-School, and a veteran of the Air Force. She had never seen herself joining the military, but during a visit to West Point while in college, she was incredibly impressed with the poise and strength of female cadets on campus. One of her close friends was a member of the military. “She was a girly girl, she liked shopping, she was completely normal”—except that she was also in combat. By the time Christine finished describing her female role models and the empowerment she felt being in the military, one Bwog staffer may or may not have wiped away a tear. DSpar should talk with Christine about the meaning of “having it all.”
Christine walked us through the ceremony that came before dinner, explaining why different divisions of the military were called to stand (and telling one of us to sit down when she accidentally tried to stand up with the air force). Now, Columbia and Fox News—that’s a combination that doesn’t happen often unless Fox is mocking our “nutty professors.” Yet the sole speaker of the night (due to the other scheduled speaker’s family emergency) was Greg Kelly, a co-host of Good Day New York and a Marine Corps Reserve Lieutenant Colonel. He spoke of the disadvantages veterans face in school and in the workforce after returning to civilian life and how to overcome them; he noted that to get to the top, “you have to start at the bottom.”
A combined total of nine whiskey sours and two delicious chocolate-caramel tarts later, we headed to the dance floor. We retreated after realizing that we would never be as good at dancing (or possibly as happy) as the old man with a cane bobbing along to Ke$ha at the corner of the floor. The rest of the night turned into a confusing adventure through the bowels of Gotham Hall, culminating in a large man in a restricted-access elevator telling us the vaguely threatening, “there are a lot of military men around here. You might get shot.” We punched the “close door” button and responded that we were “so sorry! Oh my gosh, we were totally looking for the bathroom and we got lost! Oh my gosh, so sorry, got lost… bathroom. Sorry.”
Although we had to stop several times on the way back to the subway to rub our feet, swollen from dancing all night in heels, the Military Veterans Ball was one of the most interesting events with the most interesting people either of us had ever been to at Columbia. Breaking out of the CC-SEAS bubble for a night was a refreshing change from the undergraduate norm; instead of drinking whiskey sours in a dimly-lit 1020 booth, we were rubbing shoulders with the country’s finest… still drinking whiskey sours, of course.