For the last three years, I have watched and captured the outstanding 50 GUN Salute to the nation on the 4th of July – Independence Day. It’s an amazing event that has been precisely executed by one of the elite platoons in the US military – The Presidential Salute Battery…
In 2009, I composed a video slide show showing several photos of the event that took less than three minutes to execute on Summerall Field of Fort Myer. The first time I saw this, I was amazed by the efficiency and professionalism that the Soldiers of this specialty platoon. In 2011, a dear friend and someone who had served in the GUNS Platoon years ago captured a video of the event - including a rare occurrence of the backup gun firing.
The venue of these events were on the edge of Summerall Field with the Garrison Colors flying from the flagpole.
That all changed in 2012 as the event was moved to Whipple Field, also on Fort Myer, overlooking the city of Washington DC. It’s not often that the GUNS are brought to this location, so it was a rare event. In all the years I’ve photographed these men doing their missions, this would be a first for me also. Somehow over the years, I missed the Whipple Field events. (Twilight Tattoo events will be on Whipple Field in JULY 2012.)
I arrived on Fort Myer and as I walked up the hill to Whipple Field, the US Colors were proudly waving in the wind. I caught a glimpse of the four tubes of the guns on the hill above me (they’re M5s from WW II - 3 ” anti-tank guns that the platoon keeps in pristine condition… painted black, the brass on the guns shines outstandingly well from all the TLC that the Soldiers give them (An Old Guard officer once remarked to me “Those men really take exceptional care of their guns….”)
The heat on the field was intense. approaching 100 degrees even in the shade. Off in the distance under the shade of the trees, stood the Soldiers of the battery in their ceremonial blues. I’m sure that the heat was felt more even with them in the shade. Standing along the northern perimeter, it was great to speak with several men who had served in Guns years ago. They recalled this “50 GUN Salute to the Nation” and how it was an honor to have been among those who had done it before.
This year the event was conducted differently. As the Noon hour approached, the Soldiers marched onto the field and took up their positions at the guns and the battery staff stood behind. An announcer then began to call off the names of each state with the year it was admitted to the Union. A gun fired. For each of the 50 states this was repeated with a gun delivering its impact over the Capital below with the monuments in sight.
After all the 50 states were acknowledged with a Gun Salute, the Soldiers at the guns and the battery staff faced the assembled crowd, rendering a hand salute as a member of the US Army Band then sang the Star Spangled Banner. The Soldiers then marched off, their 50 Gun Salutes still lingering over the Nation’s Capital - Happy Birthday America!GHTime Code(s): nc nc