To that select few who have frequented its precincts, it is simply “The Major’s.” In reality it’s the “Globe and Laurel,” along Virginia’s Route One near the main gate to the U.S. Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. Its proprietor is a sandy haired, crewcut, toothbrush-mustached, immaculately turned out, retired Major of the U.S. Marine Corps: one Rick Spooner. A lionhearted World War II Veteran, who as a lad of 16 survived such horrors as Tarawa (over a thousand dead on the beach in the first 48 hours), the Major also recalls with quiet satisfaction his camaraderie-in-arms with the Royal British Marine Commando; hence the appellation “Globe and Laurel,” insignia of those stout Brits who were the precursors of our very own Leathernecks. The tolerantly stern majordomo of a very proper hostelry of almost 19th-century milieu (“A Touch of Tradition,” as its Inn sign proclaims) is a Kiplingesque curator of a veritable hall of memorabilia of the U.S. Marine Corps, the British Commandos, and the FBI, whose Academy for the past almost 50 years has been located on the base.

Decorum fitting a watering hole for gentlemen, soldiers, and others is de rigueur at the Major’s, who has only to fix a cold eye on a temporary miscreant to restore propriety. Every inch of the walls (and the ceiling) of the Globe and Laurel is covered with the memories of war, battle flags, regimental honors, photographs of Field Grade Officers and heroes of lesser ranks, of poignant mementos of battles old and recent—and a couple generations of Marines and FBI Agents hold the Globe and Laurel in the same esteem in which the Foreign Legion held Sidi-bel-Abbes. In keeping with the set and the setting, the menu is restricted to prime rib and veal cordon bleu and blood-red steak broiled black. The pouring whiskeys are Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker Red, and the unfortunate ordering anything less than Beefeaters is held in slight suspicion of failure to meet the Globe’s required standards. But for all its refinements, this is not the habitat of the effete. The Marines, even in mufti, have the mien of men who have been through the crucible of war, and in uniform wear ribbons of most of the conflicts of our century, and the FBI Agents are veterans of those alley wars which are equally demanding, but for which ribbons are not issued. Good company in which to be, in the extremities just discussed, or when the glow is high—the imported beer flowing and the steaks charring, the Major at his pater familias best, and the sea stories at high tide—and a powerfully good place to be when that company and mood prevails.

All of which fond reflections were evoked with the recent news of the death of Kate Smith. Strange convergence, to be sure, but herein lies the nexus of a singer, a song, and the vagaries of a rather whimsical Inn.

A few years ago, during a best forgotten era in which demonstrative patriotism—among a host of other long honored virtues—was looked upon as rather an embarrassment to the sophisticate, a quartet of interested businessmen, some stock brokers, and a network TV executive toured the FBI Academy with one of the Globe and Laurel’s initiates. The entourage gravitated, eventually, to the Globe and Laurel for repast and refreshments. The company evolved, as it so often does at the Major’s, to what a poet once referred to as a “goodly crowd,” of the usual genre—Marines, FBI Agents, visiting professional soldiers of various foreign military missions, and a sprinkling of law enforcement officers attending training sessions at the Academy. As counterpoint to the rough but fraternal badinage of hard guys from tough professions were heard the melodies of old, seemingly incongruous to this clientele—”I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen” and “Moonlight Serenade” played by a unique pianist, Ray Baker, ordained Minister of the Gospel and marvelous entertainer—and the occasional recorded rendition of “Amazing Grace” by a bagpipe ensemble.

Sometime along that evening of yore, the music, erstwhile largely ignored, drifted into the strains of “God Bless America.” Uncontrived and spontaneously, that goodly crowd was on its feet in unforgettable concert, pewter mugs lifted to the ceiling, and not a few wet eyes among men who knew the essence of that anthem—men who knew the blood and tears that sired that song. A visiting Brit, somewhat bemused, gently observed, “Not abashed at all, are you, you Yanks, about loving your country?”

I guess not. I hope we never are. Memory warms, things past beguile— but I wish there were more Major Spooners, more Globe and Laurels, and more Kate Smiths—and that we as a nation will forever sing and pray, “God Bless America.”