More than 70,000 people were in attendance and millions of people were watching around the globe as the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from The United States Army Band presented the colors at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, February 13, 2022.
The energy in the stadium was palpable. As the joint color guard and drummers were escorted through the building, lines of security, staff and football fans lines up to thank the service members as they were guided to an empty SoFi Stadium hallway 30 minutes prior to the march-on. Intently focused on the upcoming mission, they silenced the steady flow of pre-game announcements by rehearsing present arms, reviewing the drum counts, and adjusting their service flags and uniforms.
Muscle memory from hours of intense training steeled nerves as the service members left the hallway for the field. Stoic faces, partially shadowed by service caps, flags and colorful streamers, reflected the dedication and hard work of each individual selected to represent his or her service at one of the biggest missions of the year.
“Being on the same field as premier, world-renowned athletes, and hearing such a large crowd roar as we all took time to pay homage to those who came before us…I was flooded with varying emotions that ranged from nervousness to excitement,” said Sgt. Cameron Williams, 40th Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps and bearer of the Marine Corps flag. “I simply wanted to make my family, Marines and fellow Americans proud to be a part of this country.”
As Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals players ran onto the field, simultaneous cheering and booing reverberated through the stadium.
“Just before I walked onto the field, I reminded myself of my ‘why,’” said Staff Sgt. Cody Royster, bearer of the U.S. flag, from the 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “My family is the reason I do what I do and have so much passion for it. My wife, son and daughter are the biggest influences in my life, and I want to make them proud each and every day. They are my ‘why.’”
The turf was soft, giving a bounce to each step as the color guard and drummers stepped off to make their way to their initial field position.
The stadium fell silent as Jhené Aiko performed “America the Beautiful,” but erupted in applause on the final notes. Royster’s commands, the drums cadence and the announcement for the color guard was clearly audible as they moved to their marks for the national anthem, Mickey Guyton stepped onto the stage, and camera men scrambled into position.
“Colors! For-ward March!”
“From the Nation’s Capital and the Military District of Washington, today’s colors are presented by the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”
“Colors, present arms!”
Approximately two minutes later, on the final notes of the “Star Spangled Banner,” a soft buzz of the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight could be heard from the flyover and as video of the five aircraft flashed onto the big screens. The team marched off the field, and the mission was complete.
Fueled by adrenaline, exclamations of “that was great!” and “how did it look?” were the first words uttered.
Navy color bearer Seaman Gavin Smith was celebrating his 21st birthday on Super Bowl Sunday. With Michigan media outlets reporting that Smith would be presenting the colors next to his childhood friend Airman 1st Class Justin Chambe, the two quickly gained a celebrity-like status in their hometown. For Smith, the best part about being at the Super Bowl was more than his birthday celebration, news reports, or meeting Mickey Guyton, Big Sean and other celebrities that weekend.
“I guess you could say that I got to represent the Navy in front of millions of people,” said Smith. “It was all I could ask for,” Smith said.
The service members received texts, calls and messages all weekend from teammates, friends and family. Most of it was positive and encouraging – commenting on the social media behind-the-scenes coverage, but being the best of the best doesn’t come without high expectations from others and from themselves.
“My super bowl experience was arguably my most rewarding experience I’ve had in the Army so far,” said Royster. “Not only because I represented our nation, the Army, and The Old Guard, but because I represented my family and friends. I had so much support and love shown to me directly after the game, I was shock.”
Meeting and exceeding standards are not about individual ego for these service members. It’s about representing their teammates, the service members who have come before them, their individual services, the Department of Defense and the nation.
“Super Bowl LVI was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” said Williams. “It was an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to present the Official Battle Color of the Marine Corps along with the other branches during the national anthem, and to render respects to our great nation.”
With a job well done, the team shed their uniforms for jerseys and stepped back into the stadium as spectators.
The service members of the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard are from U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, Navy District Washington, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, Telecommunications Information Systems Command Center, Alexandria, Virginia; U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.; and the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.
As the official ceremonial units for their respective services, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard Honor Guards routinely participate in ceremonies at the Pentagon, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, national memorials, throughout the National Capital Region and across the country.