VICENZA, Italy – Formal American parties during the 1920s, also called the “roaring 20s,” featured men decked out in three-piece suits and ties, paired with “Peaky Blinders” style caps, suspenders and pocket watches affixed by golden chains. Women wore flapper dresses with tassels, necks adorned with colorful boas, topped off with pearl headbands which often featured a colorful peacock feather.
Jazz music was popular in smoke-filled lounges or covert speakeasies where the prohibition against alcohol was conveniently overlooked.
This year’s Vicenza military gala featured all this and more, with vintage cars on display, casino games, a deejay, cigar rolling, as well as wine and whiskey tasting.
Formally entitled “The Vicenza Military Community Dappers and Flappers Gala,” the event was held at Villa Canal in Grumolo delle Abbadesse, April 21, 2023. The 18th century mansion was inspired by Andrea Palladio, the famous Renaissance-era architect, and features a large garden courtyard flanked by marble statues, ancient trees and many design details.
“The initial meeting with the command group and spouses was back in December,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Lyon, gala event organizer and civil-military operations division chief, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF). “We spent quite some time in January visiting villas in the surrounding area to find the perfect location.”
As guests arrived at Villa Canal, gala organizers encouraged attendees to enjoy a night of camaraderie with dancing, catered food and music. However, the night also featured a more formal and somber side, in memory of those missing from the special occasion.
“A solitary candle stands alone, straight, tall and proud, like our comrade. It is lit to signify hope. Remember,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Dave Thompson, gala master of ceremonies and public affairs planner, SETAF-AF.
The “missing man table,” also referred to as the “fallen comrade table,” was solemnly prepared off to the side. Along with the candle, a traditional red rose extended from an ornamental vase tied with yellow ribbon, symbolizing the comrade’s life and determination to account for those still missing.
As silence fell over the hundreds in attendance, a bugle call played the familiar military tune of “Taps.”
“I propose a toast to our fallen comrades,” said. U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Reese W. Teakell, command sergeant major of SETAF-AF.
Thompson responded, “Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses for a moment of silence.”
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Todd R. Wasmund, commanding general of SETAF-AF, thanked community members, the gala organizers and distinguished members of the Vicenza community.
“We’re very grateful for our Vicenza hosts,” said Wasmund. “The gala is a night to celebrate together with friends and family. Thank you to everyone who made tonight possible.”
Wasmund introduced the gala’s guest speaker, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. (ret.) “Skip” Davis, Jr., the deputy assistant secretary general for the Defense Investment Division, NATO. Davis previously served as the director of operations, U.S. European Command.
Davis spoke to the audience about the importance of NATO partners and allies working together to secure peace throughout Europe and beyond.
Wasmund concluded the formal part of the evening by rendering the order to retire the colors. The color guard marched in close procession, hoisted the guidons and ushered in the informal portion of the evening.
Fireworks illuminated the sky as many couples danced the night away. Others lingered throughout the villa’s halls, admiring the artwork, ornate stone staircases and many other intricate offerings inside and out.
“Our small planning team spent months working with local vendors to create the amazing event that we all witnessed,” said Lyon. “The decorations committee knocked it out of the park with the final touches and special details that made the night feel authentic.”