By Mitch MeadorAugust 29, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Aug. 29, 2019 -- On the day when the nation honored the life of President George Herbert Walker Bush with no fewer than four separate memorial services, Fort Sill's salute battery fired a 21-gun salute in tribute.
Starting at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 6, 2018, crew members from B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery fired one round every 30 minutes until 5 p.m. They then fired a 50-round salute, one round for each of the 50 states.
The story didn't end with the dying echoes of their last round. Rather, the final blank round in memory of the first President Bush took on a life of its own.
Following the salute on the day of his interment, Soldiers of B/2-2nd FA saved the canister of that particular round. Capt. Tyger Lyons, the current battery commander, likens the canister to the shell casing of a bullet.
This one was somewhat the worse for wear for having been blown out of the tube, so the Soldiers put in some man-hours polishing and burnishing it with a buffer they use specifically for that purpose. Thus was it made suitable for display.
"We engraved it to present as a trophy, as a memento of that salute," Lyons said.
Next they contacted the President George H.W. Bush Library Center in College Station, Texas.
"We presented them with the opportunity and said, 'Hey, we would like to donate this to the museum in honor of President Bush,'" the captain said.
Making that happen took nine months to get through the Army and Fort Sill bureaucracy, but finally they obtained the authorization and funding for Lt. Col. Lazander Tomlinson, 2-2nd FA commander, and Lyons to travel to College Station for the formal presentation of the canister to the presidential library.
They presented the canister Aug. 13. They found when they were there that other canisters had been donated by various units. They are all on display near the end of the museum. But Fort Sill's canister is special.
"Ours is the only one that was actually fired during the salute. All of the others are just representative" of the final round fired, Lyons said. "The canister that we donated will be displayed alongside the others. What separates ours is that it was actually fired and is not just a representation.
"The library was actually kind enough to donate to our battalion a flag that was flown over the presidential library, as a thank-you for our donation," he said. "It was a surprise and an honor for us."
A certificate came with it to verify that the flag was flown over the presidential library. Both the flag and the accompanying certificate will be framed and placed in 2-2nd FA's regimental room.
While they were in College Station, Tomlinson and Lyons were able to take a tour of the museum, and then they were privileged to be able to visit the gravesite of President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.
"The library staff and director, the deputy director, were very welcoming. They were very accommodating, and they appeared to legitimately appreciate that donation. I think it meant a lot to them," Lyons said.