FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (May 19, 2011) - Since 1929, the tradition of the Massing of the Colors has been organized and hosted by the Military Order of the World Wars. For the past 25, the Fort Meade Chapter of the MOWW has hosted the ceremony for the area.

"We are very, very proud to be a part of this event," said retired Lt. Col. John Hollywood, chapter commander. "The purpose is to recognize patriotism, to recognize the units of the armed forces and also the civilian community."

On Sunday afternoon at the Pavilion, the Fort Meade MOWW hosted the annual Massing of the Colors Ceremony. More than 400 people attended the 90-minute event, which celebrated the American flag and honored those who have served the country.

More than 50 color guards representing all military branches, veterans organizations, community organizations, youth groups, police officers and firefighters marched into the Pavilion holding the American and service flags, complemented by the music of the Maryland Defense Force Band.

"That was one impressive site seeing [the color guards] come in today," Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas said.

The ceremony also doubled as a Memorial Day remembrance.

"I can't think of a more fitting tribute to our fallen," Thomas said.

Several veteran organizations participated in the event as members of the color guard and as spectators.

"What I liked best about it was when the older vets from World War II, Korea and Vietnam walked up and the audience gave them a nice round of applause. I thought that was really super," Hollywood said.

Guest speaker Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and chief of the National Security Service, discussed the significance of the American flag and the sense of duty.

"It's wonderful to see so many people come together to honor our nation's flag," Alexander said. "It is the premier symbol of our nation, instantly recognized everywhere in the world. It represents the history, the resilience and the growth of our nation."

Alexander said the flag provides "great comfort" for the American people during tragedies. He also called the flag a rallying point for Americans, whether it is mounted on the island of Iwo Jima or flying over Ground Zero, the World Trade Center disaster site in lower Manhattan.

The flag, he said, is also a symbol of service for those who have served in the armed forces.

"On Memorial Day, the flag will be at half mass, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in our nation's wars," Alexander said. "The stories of those wars were written by those who fought."

Alexander thanked all the veterans in the crowd for their "selfless service, patriotism and contribution to our freedom. ... As a nation, we will always try to be worthy of your sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those who have given their life in service of our country."

The sense of duty is rewarding and profound, Alexander said, a "calling" for those who serve the country, whether it is a service member, a police officer or a firefighter.

"Today, we honor that sense of duty," he said.

Following Alexander's speech, members of the West Point Alumni Glee Club performed songs representative of the U.S. military branches, patriotic songs and songs from the World War II era.

After the ceremony, Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Smith called Alexander's speech and the glee club's performance "patriotic."

"It was like. 'Hey, you know what' This is why we serve,' " Smith said. "I thought it was great. ... I thought that this was an A-class act type of event."

Smith, who was recently named the installation's command sergeant major, said he would encourage all service members to attend a Massing of the Colors in the future.

George Root, a retired Navy commander from Gambrills, said the annual event reminds everybody in attendance of their patriotic spirit and is as enjoyable for retired service members as for those currently serving.

Young service members, he said, could benefit most from a Massing of the Colors ceremony.

"I think it's especially good for the youngsters who have never seen this sort of thing," Root said. "This is the sort of large ceremony that real major organizations have to promote solidarity and team sprit and a team view."