Sunset Parade opener yields to weather
May 31, 2013
ARLINGTON, Va. - An ominous omen rumbled from the northern Virginia sky an hour and a half prior to the May 28 Marine Sunset Parade.
The storm clouds, thunder, lightning and United States Marines simultaneously fell in at the Iwo Jima Memorial for the first Tuesday parade, but a handful of late afternoon thundershowers saturated the memorial grounds and eventually led to the cancellation of the 2013 parade premiere.
Even as prospects of a show dwindled, Marines were still hyped for the possibility of clearing skies and an enthusiastic crowd. Though the first line of rain hit the ground and tops of umbrellas, a crowd of 150 spectators continued to wait for scheduled performances by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, "The Commandant's Own." The ceremonial parade battalion is based at Marine Barracks Washington, also known as 8th & I.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Buckles is currently the Drum Major of "The Commandant's Own." The New Orleans native mentioned the musical mission does not change whether inclement or fair skies conditions are predicted.
"It doesn't matter if one person is sitting out there or 10,000 are sitting out there. There's always somebody out there who has never seen a Marine up close, so we like to keep that in the forefront of our minds," he said. "Our job is to motivate, inspire and entertain, so we take that very seriously. When we perform, there will be some former military members out here, so we hope we can stir up some motivation for them. There'll be some young kids who may be thinking of joining the military, so we hope to inspire them. Hopefully, there are some people, through our music, we can entertain, as well."
Between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. - within an hour of the start of the parade - the first raindrops fell. A brief clearing period followed allowing the 8th & I grounds platoon to wipe down VIP seating and upgrade the grounds. But heavier storm clouds dropped more precipitation in the Arlington area, and by 7:20 p.m., the announcement was made of the event's cancellation.
"There are several factors that come into play when deciding to cancel a Sunset Parade," said Marine Public Affairs Public Affairs Chief Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter. "Concern for the safety of our guests and our Marines is first and foremost. The presence of lightning in the area certainly was a factor in cancelling Tuesday's parade. We also look at the condition of the parade field and talk with that evening's hosting official for guidance when making a decision."
The Marines get a reprieve June 4, when they will again take to the Marine Corps Memorial green for the next scheduled sunset parade.
Additional Arlington Sunset Parade dates include June 11, June 18, June 25, July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, July 30, Aug. 6 and Aug. 13. The Aug. 6 and 13 parades begin at 6 p.m.; all other parades have a 7 p.m. start time.
Since no parking is available on the memorial grounds the evening of the parades, the Corps suggests using public transportation or the free shuttle from the Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center. The nearest Metro stop to the Marine Corps Memorial is the Rosslyn station. The free shuttle to the Iwo Jima Memorial operates from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. before the parade and from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. following the event.