Conmy Hall hosts Army birthday Twilight Tattoo
June 22, 2009
The best of the Military District of Washington was on full display Wednesday night for a special birthday edition of the Twilight Tattoo. Before a capacity crowd filled with VIPs, World War II veterans and schools from around the country at Fort Myer's Conmy Hall, the Army's most decorated ceremonial units put on an unforgettable show. The U.S. Army Blues, part of the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," began the evening with a medley of pop songs from yesterday and today, including hits from the Jackson 5 and Rihanna. As the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment's (The Old Guard) Honor Guard company, Alpha company, Continental Color Guard Commander-in-Chief's Guard and Fife and Drums Corps marched onto the floor, the announcer gave a brief history of each unit. The official party consisted of Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Sgt Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. Harold W. Arberg, the man who wrote the lyrics to the Army song was also in attendance, along with his wife Jane, and other members of his family. He was given the best seat in the house, right near the official party. Geren took the time to speak briefly before the festivities officially began. He started by asking anyone in the audience who had served as a noncommissioned officer to stand, and those who did were given a hearty round of applause. "The year 2009 is the year of the noncommissioned officer. Tonight we celebrate the birthday of the United States Army, but all year long, we're celebrating ... the noncommissioned officer," he said. Geren spoke about how the legacies of American leaders such as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were tied to the successes of the Army. Without the Army, Washington and Jefferson would have been hanged as traitors, and Lincoln would be known as the president who lost the union, Geren said. The U.S. Army Drill team performed first, moving their limbs and bayonet-tipped 1903 Springfield rifles in perfect sync with each other. The Fife and Drum Corps were next performing several tunes as they too moved in perfect symmetry with one another, before closing their set with their signature tune, "Yankee Doodle Dandy." "The drum solos were amazing," said A.J. Cabello, who was visiting with his school from California. "They were definitely my favorite part." Next came "The Flag Story," a visual journey through America's conflicts, from the Revolutionary War all the way to the current conflicts in the Middle East. Soldiers from The Old Guard dressed in period costumes from each conflict, and they came out as the announcer told the story of America in war time. The tattoo concluded with the traditional pass-in-review, where each unit passed by the official party. The Arbergs joined Geren, Casey and Preston at the center of the auditorium as each unit passed and saluted. Soldiers bearing the flags of the 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Marians Islands finished the pass-in-review, and each group in the audience applauded loudly as their state passed by. The ceremony concluded the way most Army ceremonies do, with the playing of the Army song. It had special significance to Arberg, as the song he created is still being sung so many years later. "It just knocks me out to hear it performed so well in such a marvelous setting," he said. "I couldn't be happier." Many of the groups in attendance made the Twilight Tattoo just one of the stops on their tour through Washington,D.C., but for some, it will be their most lasting memory. "This has been my favorite part of our trip so far," said Arturo Gaona of California. "We're here until Friday, but it will be hard to top this."