Saluting Washington's 281st birthday
February 19, 2013
Happy birthday, Mr. President.
Monday's bitter chill didn't stop thousands of people from honoring Gen. George Washington during the annual celebration marking his 281st birthday at his Mount Vernon home.
"I urge you to thank the people that serve this country in uniform," said Washington, who was portrayed by Dean Malissa. "That, to me, besides your visit here today, would be the greatest birthday gift of all."
The event began with a wreath-laying at Washington's tomb. Soldiers of The Old Guard wearing Revolutionary War-era uniforms lined the cobblestone path as The U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard processed to the tomb. Following the posting of the colors, President Barack Obama's representative, Army Brig. Gen. James Pasquarette, deputy director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, laid a wreath at the tomb as the crowd watched in silence.
The celebration then shifted locations, with all eyes turning towards the estate's bowling green, where the official observance of Washington's birthday took place. Washington's prayer for the country was read, and Ann Bookout, the 20th regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the non-profit organization which purchased the estate from the Washington family, addressed the crowd.
"Last year alone we welcomed over 1.1 million people to this landmark property, making us the most visited historic home in America," she said.
Bookout said Washington is "someone we revere as an extraordinary man of character and leadership. We must always honor his legacy and never forget his unparalleled contributions."
Washington served in the three most important roles in the founding of the country, Bookout continued. He was commander-in-chief during the American Revolution, president of the Constitutional Convention and president of the United States.
"Each, quite remarkably, he was elected to unanimously," she said. "He truly was, as he forever should be, first in the hearts of his countrymen."
A special demonstration by The U.S. Army Military District of Washington, featuring the U.S. Army 3d Infantry, The Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps and the Commander-in-Chief's Guard followed Bookout's address. The Soldiers fired weapons like those used during the Revolutionary War and demonstrated tactics used during the war.
Following the demonstration, visitors had a chance to talk with Washington himself and had an opportunity to tour the estate and gardens at no cost in honor of the general's birthday.