Visiting our Nation’s Capital

This past week, I was in Washington, DC as we took the Basic Officer Leaders Course up there for a few days.  Since we’re only a few hours away, it was a great opportunity to get these new officers contact with Special Bands (The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” and The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, both stationed at Fort Myer); exposure to Arlington National Cemetery; and some of the other unique opportunities that only DC can provide.

The trip started off as all Army trips should – waking up at 0300 (that’s 3AM).  We needed to get to FT Myer by 0830 so we could catch the change of responsibility for the Army Chief of Staff as General Dempsey relinquished his position as Chief of Staff to General Odierno; General Dempsey will soon be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Due to the never-ending rain this last week, the ceremony was held indoors on FT Myer, and it was very well done (as usual).  The Army Band and the Fife and Drum Corps both did a great job and the Old Guard looked as tight as I remember when I was stationed up there.

We spent the afternoon at the Institute of Heraldry, which is at Fort Belvoir.  The Institute is responsible for all heraldic services for the Federal Government; it includes coats of arms, flags, seals, decorations and awards, unit patches, flags, etc.  The Director of the Institute was kind enough to give us a briefing and answer all of our questions; it was an interesting conversation that the students and I thoroughly enjoyed.  One of the cool things was that we met the person who creates the Seal of the President of the United States.  So wherever you see the Presidential Seal like on podiums, this is they guy who did it.  Here’s a picture from his office:

We spent most of the next day at FT Myer, observing a rehearsal and spending time in Arlington National Cemetery.  We went to the memorials for the Space Shuttle accidents and the U.S.S. Maine; and the gravesite for President Kennedy.  We were also able to observe the tail end of a wreath laying and changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

In the afternoon, we made our way to the National Archives.  Amazingly, although I was stationed at FT Myer for four years and a huge history buff, I had never been there – I know, I know…anyways, being inches from perhaps the greatest document in the history of mankind – The Declaration of Independence, and the other great document of Western Civilization – the U.S. Constitution – had me holding back tears.  Sorry, no pictures as they are not allowed.  One thing I will say is that I was shocked just how faded the ink was on both documents.  But long after the words fade from the parchment, their impact will endure.

Our last day in town, we went to the first performance of this year’s Spirit of America at the Verizon Center.  The show features Soldiers from The Old Guard, The U.S. Army Band, The Fife and Drum Corps, and the U.S. Army Drill Team.  Although it was their first performance on a Friday morning (mainly for school groups), it was well executed and hit I think the right notes of history, remembrance, and patriotism.  Overall, a great way to end our trip to DC.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Visiting our Nation’s Capital

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