If there is one thing the Army knows how to do – and do well – it is putting pomp and pageantry into public events.
That fact was driven home to me 20-odd years ago when I was covering Ft. Sill for the newspaper in Lawton.
It didn’t much matter the occasion – changes of command, visiting generals, deployments, etc., – the Army was always ready to pull out all the stops and do things up proud.
So I got used to the day-to-day ceremonial life on that post.
More times than I can count, I thrilled to a rousing Sousa march played by the 77th Army Band and the horsemanship skills and firing demonstrations by the Field Artillery Half-Section.
I learned my place, too.
See, the Army always has a seating area at these events. Each chair bears the name of its intended occupant. None of the names was mine.
So I watched and photographed and reported from the sidelines.
I covered all manner of events. But the one that has stayed with me the longest was on the Army’s birthday, which is celebrated along with Flag Day on June 14.
For the record, this year the Army turned 244 years old.
During the observance, a list of every campaign fought in the Army’s centuries-long history is named and a battle streamer for that engagement is attached atop the Army flag.
Multi-colored battle streamers measure 2-1/4 inch-by-4 feet, each bearing the embroidered campaign designation and year.
The Army has 190 battle streamers and by the time the last campaign is named and its streamer affixed to the flag,the flag itself is mostly hidden from view.
And yet it remains unbowed under the weight of battles fought and lives lost in the defense of freedom.
It is as sobering a sight as it is impressive. It is one every American should see at least once.
And especially on the Fourth of July.