Sitting in the middle of the Fort Meade Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, May 22, next to her 14-year-old grandson John, Jacqueline Mullikin dabbed a few tears away while listening to a lone bugler play “Taps.”
“I was thinking of my daddy a lot,” said Mullikin, referring to Samuel Clyde Snyder, who died at the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
Mullikin was among the approximately 500 people who braved the driving rain to attend the Memorial Day Remembrance and 30th Annual Massing of the Colors, hosted by the General George G. Meade Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars. A resident of the Eastern Shore town of Cordova, Mullikin was also thinking of her late husband, Ivon, who was stationed on post during the mid-’50s.
Mullikin’s 15-year-old grandson, J.L., participated in the ceremony as part of the color guard representing Easton High School’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
Flurry of Colors
“This was a very moving day for me,” said Mullikin, 79. “It was really a wonderful ceremony.”
The Massing of the Colors is a gathering at which “Old Glory” is honored and service members — particularly those who fell in America’s foreign conflicts — are remembered.
The public was welcomed to the ceremony, and light refreshments were served afterward.
Service, selflessness and sacrifice were the dominant themes throughout the 75-minute ceremony, which featured a procession of color guards representing more than 30 military units, high school JROTCs, Boy and Girl Scouts of the USA troops, veterans’ groups, police and fire departments, and youth and civic organizations.
The pavilion was awash in a flurry of colors as national, state and organizational flags paraded to the solemn sounds of bagpiper James Ebert and the steady martial beat of a solitary drummer from the U.S. Army Field Band.
The Presentation of the Colors was conducted by the Military District of Washington’s U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard. Alaina Matthews, daughter of Lt. Col. Joseph Mathews, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, while Garrison Deputy Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Cooper delivered the invocation, Blessing of the Colors and benediction.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were Turhan Robinson, Maryland’s assistant attorney general, and state Secretary of Veterans Affairs George Owings III.
Retired Col. Kenneth McCreedy, former garrison commander of Fort Meade, served as the program’s emcee and welcomed attendees, recognizing in particular Vietnam-era veterans and Gold Star families in the audience.
Gold Star families represent the survivors of military members who died in service to their country.
“We thank you for your sacrifices and are honored that you are here today,” McCreedy said.
Retired Lt. Col. Ruth Hamilton, commander of the Military Order of World Wards (MOWW), talked about the order’s founding in 1919 by soldiers who served under Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing to foster the ideals of patriotism, leadership and civic responsibility among youth.
“Those ideals are just as important today as when the order was formed, maybe even more so,” Hamilton said. “I’m proud to say the MOWW is the only organization in the nation that sponsors the massing of military flags to show our deep respect for the flag as the symbol of our nation.”
‘Nothing Is Free’
In his remarks, Garrison Commander Col. Brian Foley said the ceremony is a vehicle to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. He said those heroes and their families displayed the values of courage, pride, determination, selflessness and personal integrity in an exemplary fashion.
Foley called the ceremony “a gathering of people, all of us American citizens, protecting the patriotic lineage of our nation.”
Serving in his third consecutive year as the event’s keynote speaker and grand marshal was Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. CyberCommand, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service.
Rogers said contemporary military personnel stand on the shoulders of giants.
“On behalf of the men and women who serve today, thank you for the legacy you leave, and we hope we’re doing you proud,” he said to veterans in the audience. “Today, we remember those men and women who gave their all and made the ultimate sacrifice.
“There are cemeteries throughout the world with American service members who gave their lives in lands they knew little about and far from home, to serve this nation and our allies.
“Nothing is free,” Rogers said. “We take for granted our freedoms and existence, and our values and ideals. But we’re blessed as a nation that these men and women will take on the ideal of sacrifice, and if necessary give their lives for this nation. I hope this ideal will continue.”
Following the Recession of the Color Guards, the Army Field Band performed “America the Beautiful,” “The Armed Forces Salute,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” and a stirring a cappella rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”
One Youth’s View
Among those moved by the ceremony was Noah Fine, a member of Boy Scout Troop 1299 in Northwest Baltimore, who went up to soldiers and thanked them for their service.
“It was very interesting to see how the military treats their veterans,” said Fine, 16, who attends Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, in Pikesville. “Today’s generation is completely unpatriotic. More young people need to see ceremonies like this. I hope to come back next year.”
Sgt. 1st Class Colin Beharry of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade said he was honored to participate in the massing for the third straight year.
“It’s just a privilege to be part of this ceremony, which is all about the past, present and future,” said Beharry, a native of Guyana. “What makes this event so special is the combination of everybody celebrating all of the patriotic values and the groups involved.
“It’s good to pay homage and try to emulate those who came before us. This is what it’s all about.”