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Photography by John Michael

"Preserving the memories so others will remember"™

PART ONE: TOG on a Mission – 2010

Here’s a more in-depth look at the making and background of the calendar – “The Old Guard on Mission – 2010” – some history and little known facts…

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Posted 7 years, 1 month ago at 5:50 am.

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Мерры Чристмас !

Or for those who cannot read Russian Cyrillic –

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Posted 7 years, 1 month ago at 10:03 pm.

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Mission: ANC

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

For those who have followed me on Facebook, you have seen how from Saturday morning in the frenzy of the snowstorm, I attempted daily to get into Arlington National Cemetery.  The mission was to capture some of the beauty of this hallowed place in the snow…   ANC closed on Saturday, and when I arrived, the barriers were symbolically across Memorial Drive.

I turned around and decided that Sunday morning was probably a better choice and when I returned on Sunday, I found the roadway of Memorial Drive completely clear thanks to the efforts of the National Park Service.  Alas, the gates of ANC were closed and locked …

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Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 11:36 am.

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A glorious 4th with the Big Guns of the Old Guard…

GUN SALUTE

GUN SALUTE

It all began on Summerall Field of Fort Myer. Four artillery pieces placed – The “Big Guns of the Old Guard” were ready to celebrate America’s birthday in a big way – The sun shone brightly on Saturday, July 4th reflecting off the highly polished WW II vintage 3” anti-tank guns of the Presidential Salute Battery. The battery looking sharp in their dress blue uniforms stood at the ready as the time approached for the ceremony to begin for a 50 Gun Salute to the United States of America.

Marched into position by the NCOIC, SFC Calvin Flinta, Platoon Sergeant, the Soldiers of the Battery waited as the seconds ticked off. When it was exactly noon, SGT Chris Johnson the Officer in Charge issued the command “Fire!” The first round echoed as the smoke billowed from the barrel and 5 seconds later, the watchman called the second gun to fire. Then every 3 seconds another gun called to fire until all 50 “Salutes to the Nation” were fired.

The crowd watching applauded vigorously as the last echoes of the salutes and smoke drifted off. The Soldiers of this elite unit then marched off and got ready for “part 2” of the day’s celebration. The guns were then packed up and US Park Police escorted the entire caravan down to the US Capitol. Again the four gun battery was placed in position, where later that night, the Guns Platoon provided accompaniment for the Washington Symphony Orchestra.

Marched into position by Platoon Leader – CPT Ronald K. Vinyard, the battery once again stood at the ready waiting for the signal to fire. As the colors of the fireworks were filling the sky over the Washington Monument, the orchestra played the 1812 Overture at the Capitol 4th with the Presidential Salute Battery providing the appropriate gun salutes. The final salute was all four guns firing simultaneously.

Photos by John Michael

Happy Birthday America!
 
 
 
This article also appears
in
the 10 JUL 2009 issue
of
“The Pentagram”
with one of the photographs.
 
 
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Posted 7 years, 7 months ago at 2:37 am.

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"Fire Three Volleys…"

is the command that is issued at a military funeral to honor that veteran’s service to the United States of America. The origins of this tradition dates back to the US Civil War when casualties were high in warfare and rules were a bit different. Each side was allowed to remove their casualties from the battlefield. After which they “fired three volleys” to alert the other side that they were ready to resume the battle.

 Rifles are weapons not GUNS

The seven Soldiers in the photo to the right are bearing weapons, which in this case are rifles. They are an example of continuing this tradition to honor one of their fallen. It just so happens that there are seven (led by an NCO), but there could be as few as two or as many as eight Soldiers. They are the ones who are ordered to “Fire three volleys” – simultaneously as commanded by the NCO…

 The BIG GUNS of the Old Guard

The photo to the right is an example of a “GUN Salute” – The Soldiers of the Presidential Salute Battery (also known as “The Guns Platoon) are firing weapon systems, which in this case are WW II M5 – 3” anti tank guns. The Soldiers manning the guns are “orchestrated” by a battery staff consisting of an Officer in Charge (OIC), a boardman, who counts the rounds fired & announces “Last Round”, two watchmen who call the guns to fire and a NCO in Charge (NCOIC) who controls the backup gun and marches the Soldiers on and off. I’ve seen them countless times firing gun salutes – at timed intervals – but only once saw them fire a “21 GUN SALUTE” for the

President on 20 JAN 2009 at the inauguration. I heard them fire a “21 GUN SALUTE” on Memorial Day upon the arrival and another on the departure of the President from Arlington National Cemetery. So you can imagine how “rare” a 21 GUN SALUTE is, which makes it so special.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion you might have and help to inform those who insist that they saw a 21 GUN SALUTE at the last military funeral that they attended.

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Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 11:38 pm.

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Arlington National Cemetery ……. Memorial Day Reflections

Over the years, Arlington National Cemetery has become a very special place to me. I have spent countless hours exploring, learning and capturing in photographic memories some of the significance, the solemnity, the beauty of this National Shrine to those who have given so much.

Few days stand out as much as Memorial Day, for it is over that weekend that the US Army’s 3d Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard once again goes above and beyond by placing the US colors one boot length away in front of every grave stone in the cemetery.

Normally on this day, I’ll wait ’til after the formal ceremonies are over and movement around the cemetery is a bit easier as the President has left. This year, I was determined to actively participate and made it into the amphitheater near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. The sun was hot, but hidden by clouds most of the time, that later gave up some of their rain to add a bit of liquid sunshine to the day…

Off in the distance, the Presidential Salute Battery began firing the 21 Gun Salute, announcing the arrival of the President. So many times I’ve watched up close and personal the precise way that they execute their mission I could see in my mind’s eye, the watchman of the Battery calling each gun at precise 3 second intervals as each salute echoed through the hills of the cemetery.

One could then hear the commanders of the multi service honor guard call their troops to attention as the President approached the Tomb of the Unknown

After laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, followed by a moment of silence, The bugler from the US Army’s Band – Pershing’s Own sounded Taps. Those 21 notes echoing among the open air of the moment.
President came into the amphitheater, preceded by the US Army Chaplain, Superintendent of of Arlington National Cemetery, Commanding General of the Military District of Washington and the Head of the Joint Chiefs’ of Staff.

The President addressed the standing room only crowd and shared his thoughts with those assembled.

Afterwards, I went among those assembled and spent some time with those I knew and made some new friends among the slowly vanishing crowd. As the crowd dispersed, I began my exploring to several sections among those that had given so much. I went to Section 13 which has a great number of Unknowns…

It’s hard to describe the feelings that run through when one considers that for each of these stones, marks a contribution that always cannot be measured, or in most cases cannot be repaid.

I’ll let the photos take you there…

“Preserving the memories, so others will remember…” ™

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Posted 7 years, 9 months ago at 9:16 pm.

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Tuesday 20 JAN 2009 – My Day at the Inauguration PART TWO

Upon returning to the North side of the Capitol, I meandered out to a balcony overlooking Taft Park. I finally found the Presidential Salute Battery in place going through some final preparation for their mission at NOON…

All attempts I made to get inside of the “FORTRESS” met resistance … the vantage point that I’d scouted out from the balcony became blocked by a line of buses.

I was forced to photograph the men and guns from a distance through the fence… what a drag!

ENJOY!!

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Posted 8 years, 1 month ago at 5:28 pm.

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Tuesday 20 JAN 2009 – My Day at the Inauguration PART ONE

With cameras in hand, I took the first Metro train and a very seamless trip to Union Station, I arrived about 5 AM People on the train had a bit of excitement building, but it probably wouldn’t be as much as later.

What you see below is the first part of the Edited photos from that day.

Enjoy….

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Posted 8 years, 1 month ago at 2:29 am.

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A TRUE 21 Gun Salute…

There’s a common misconception that all military funerals have a 21 gun salute, especially if you’ve ever seen a final honors at Arlington National Cemetery. This is one national cemetery, the shrine of United States military heroes, which is administered by the US Army and supported by the 3d Infantry Regiment – The OLD GUARD.Among the soldiers are several distinctive units that carry on the missions to honor those dignitaries and perform the final honors as they are laid to rest in honor. The 21 gun salute that many think they see is really a firing party which is a rifle team that has been given the command “FIRE THREE VOLLEYS”. It just so happens that there are seven soldiers with rifles that then fire those shots. The firing party can be as few as two or as many as eight – though it’s still THREE VOLLEYS…  no matter how many troops with rifles are participating.

A GUN salute requires a cannon, and the Presidential Salute Battery has several that are WW II antitank guns that are in outstanding condition. The number of rounds that are fired during missions that they execute are normally less than the 21 Gun Salute that the President of the United States or head of state (like Queen Elizabeth of Britain) would get. Each mission is carried out with precision, accuracy and respect,
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Posted 8 years, 7 months ago at 11:04 pm.

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Another 700 photos…

Highlights-

  • Presidential Salute Battery
  • Fort Myer Military Community
  • US Army Band – Pershing’s Own
  • The Old Guard – Honor Guard Drilling

I spent the day on Fort Myer, VA – it was a very active day and I had a lot that I wanted to get accomplished. The Presidental Salute Battery was drilling all morning in their favorite spot near the Old Post Chapel. A selection of 4 of the 1942 vintage anti-tank guns were in place when I arrived and it appeared that the platoon was out in nearly full force. Most of the photos were captured while they were presented with various different scenarios – misfires on one or more of the guns – to assure that the timing of the required number of rounds is accurate.

After lunch it was time to head over to the Fort Myer Military Garrison HQ with the chance I could spend some time with the Historian, Mr. Kim Holien. I had brought along with me two of the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Tribute Albums which I prepared. Fortunately, he was able to spare a few minutes out of his busy day and allow me to get to know him a bit and present what my work had been so far. I shared with him one of the Tribute Albums and after careful inspection of it at least twice, he gave me what I consider a valued compliment saying that he wished I was around when his father was laid to rest at ANC.

Next stop was Brucker Hall, home of Pershing’s Own – the US Army Band to get some much needed information on music.

I went next spend some time meeting with The Old Guard PAO –

From there I squeezed in a conference call as I sat in my vehicle in front of the Old Post Chapel (constructed in 1935 as ordered by then LTC George Patton. It was after 4 PM and there in front of the chapel were dozens of soldiers some with rifles, bayonets fixed (The Old Guard is the only regiment in the US Army permitted to march with fixed bayonets as approved by an act of the US Congress for their outstanding success in the war with Mexico)

The soldiers were practicing their duties in both casket team – transporting the one being laid to rest and folding/presentation of the US colors and the firing party – “fire three volleys…” NOT a 21 gun salute as most people “think” when the see a military honors/funeral. Only the US President or Head of State gets 21 guns…

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Posted 9 years, 1 month ago at 12:08 am.

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