The U.S. Army celebrated its 237th birthday on June 14. Several days ago, the wife and I attended a celebration in Fort Myer, which is just a 10-minute walk from our house. The show – awkwardly named the “Twilight Tattoo” – was a humbling display of pageantry and precision, a somber exhibition that reminded attendees of the Army’s bloody, courageous history in defense of our Nation, except for:
- When looming rainclouds prompted planners to move the event into a cavernous basketball court that amplified every sound.
- When the Honor Guard ushers couldn’t tell us where we were supposed to sit and we nearly bumbled into the three-star VIP section – while wearing flip-flops. Oops!
- When an Army jazz band (jazz band?!) greeted attendees with cheesy guitar-heavy renditions of contemporary hits.
- When a singing quartet strutted out (in their cammies while everyone else was wearing their Dress Blues) singing The Temptations’ “Get Ready.” (Fiddley-dee, fiddley-dum, look out baby, ‘cuz here I come…)
- When a flute player passed out in formation and was dragged away like a sack of potatoes. One audience member asked, “Is that part of the act?”
- When they tried to re-enact a Civil War battle with just four guys in period dress.
- When the golly-gee Vietnam War re-enactment sounded more like a recruiting pitch. Witness a soldier’s monologue: “Sure is hot here in Vietnam (editor’s note: he was on a basketball court). But things are lookin’ up. I got a care package the other day. … Makes being in the Army worthwhile…”
- When a member of the Silent Drill Team dropped a rifle.
- When the errant rifleman was given an extra. (Editor’s note: Let him stand without a rifle in shame.)
- When they tried to sell us cheap T-shirts on our way to the car.
I can excuse a dropped rifle and even a band geek passing out in formation. It happens to the best. But the Army event was tacky and clumsy, feeling more like a variety show than a display of military precision. As a drill instructor at Officer Candidate School continually told us after drill sessions, “That … was butt-crack nasty.”
Maybe they need a little more practice and they’ll look as good as this: