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    A Grace-Perfected Day

    181202-A-EI292-001

    Photo By Cpl. Lane Hiser | 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Presidential Salute Battery Soldiers fire a...... read more read more

    JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, VA, UNITED STATES

    12.07.2018

    Story by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Farina 

    3d U.S. Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard”

    JOINT BASE MYER HENDERSON-HALL, V.A. – A group of 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Soldiers and leaders came together here on Whipple field to watch the Presidential Salute Battery render a 50-Gun Salute; a final honor to close out the state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush. The post flag flew at half-staff in honor of his passing. A military police Soldier stood ready to lower it, signifying the end of the duty day.
    It was getting dark.
    The view of our nation’s capital from the top of this hill, where our military officially receives many of its foreign dignitaries, is absolutely breath-taking. As Soldiers of The Old Guard, we are accustomed to the view over the city because it’s our back yard. It was cold out but it felt good. The city looked tired. It has been a long week of mourning. The Presidential Salute Battery Soldiers were set in place, ceremoniously postured and ready to fire the cannons.
    I will never forget this week. After nine years of service, I have collected a handful of impactful experiences I can recall with vivid detail. Some are good, some are bad. Service members tend to find themselves in extraordinary circumstances that stay with them for the rest of their lives. I knew going into this week that there would be a day that I would hang onto.
    That day would turn out to be Monday, December 3, 2018. The day I and our former president, through circumstance and serendipity beyond my comprehension, both arrived in the Capitol Rotunda.
    For the state funeral, I was tasked to provide media escort for the Bush family photographer during the arrival ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. My directions were to escort the photographer to the top of the capitol steps. I was to stay out of view and chose a position behind a pillar. The plan stated that after the casket entered the rotunda, I was to guide the photographer to the waiting area. It was a simple task, but due to the high visibility of the moment there was no room for error.
    It did not go as planned.
    As the flag-draped casket ascended the capitol steps, carried aloft by a joint team of America’s finest sons, I lost sight of the photographer. I moved and spotted him quickly, but now I was in full view of the ceremony. I quickly rendered a sharp salute as the 41st president approached. I was a part of it now.
    The moment was complete. The photographer got his shots and I informed him that it was time to go to the waiting area. We moved together and in passing he casually engaged a security guard about gaining access to the rotunda where Bush would lie in state. The guard complied without hesitation and before I could say a word they were moving. I followed close on the heels of my charge who was swept along in the moment as I wondered if things were going off the rails.
    To avoid disrupting the ceremony, the guard took us to an entrance by a circuitous route underneath the rotunda. Suddenly, I was standing in the rotunda as this exclusive and private ceremony began. There were senior government leaders, former presidents and former first ladies. The magnitude of the moment hit me and a flood of thoughts rushed through my mind. How did I end up here? What an honor. What an extraordinary experience. I’m probably going to be fired.
    I pushed those thoughts aside and dove into the moment. While standing in the capitol’s rotunda, I heard the 54th Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, describe Bush’s legacy as, “grace perfected.” The phrase stuck with me. I currently serve in a unit where we pursue perfection to achieve excellence. Our organization trains to harness discipline. Our Soldiers perform with precision and grace to honor the fallen.
    The 41st President, George H. W. Bush, is known for his service. He was a World War II Navy pilot. He was the director of the CIA. He was the president of the United States. He served, and though it was in high places, he was one of us.
    Decades from now, Soldiers of The Old Guard will tell their story of this week. The Guard of Honor who stood vigil at the capitol will share how they had to maintain ceremonial composure as former Republican Leader of the United States Senate Bob Dole was helped to his feet out of his wheel chair, and despite his condition was emotionally compelled to render a final salute to the president, once rival and now friend. A veteran of the Presidential Salute Battery will explain the significance of the empty artillery shell on their fireplace mantel that was expended the day President Bush was laid to rest. A former casket team member will be asked about a photo on their wall that captured the moment they carried Bush’s casket on the flight line at Joint Base Andrews.
    I will tell the story of how I stood at the top of the Capitol steps among the giants of our great nation and saluted a man who reminded us all how extraordinary it can be to serve.
    As former President Bush received final honors back in Texas, the Presidential Salute Battery executed the cannon fire with reliable precision. The roar of the guns echoed and crackled over D.C. The smoke from the powder hazed the view, and more than a few of our eyes. There was no media, no crowds. Just us, The Old Guard. After a week of executing our duties with grace and dignity in front of the entire world, it never even entered our minds to break composure in our own back yard. Together we saluted the night sky. I felt honored to witness it. I was filled with pride to be a part of it.
    Now that all is said and done, I guess there are two days from this week that will stay with me forever.

    -#OldGuard-

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.07.2018
    Date Posted: 12.10.2018 10:44
    Story ID: 302809
    Location: JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, VA, US 

    Web Views: 86
    Downloads: 1
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