Brilliant Colors: Patriotism celebrated at 31st annual Massing of the Colors

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Service members lead a stirring procession of colors representing about 35 military, civic, youth and law enforcement organizations during the traditional ceremony conducted Sunday afternoon at the Fort Meade Pavilion. (Photo by Phil Grout)

The pomp of Revolutionary War military music and the popular World War II tunes of The Andrew Sisters filled the Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

The music, along with the traditional procession of colors, were the highlights of Fort Meade’s Memorial Day Remembrance and 31st Annual Massing of the Colors.

The two-hour ceremony, hosted by the General George G. Meade chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars, featured guest speaker Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

Retired Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, a former garrison commander, served as emcee.

Wolf Scouts Kavon Alexander (left) and Evan Alen hold onto their colors prior to Sunday’s ceremony. The Scouts represent Cub Pack 209 of Odenton. (Photo by Phil Grout)

During his speech, McLaughlin called Memorial Day a “day of poignant remembrance and pride” and said the holiday commemorates the lives of those who desired to “be a part of something that is so important that you would put your life at risk.”

MOWW is a patriotic Veterans Service Organization centered on its motto, “It is nobler to serve than to be served.”

MOWW was founded in 1919 to promote good citizenship, patriotic education, and military and public service. MOWW chapters provide opportunities to support patriotic education, ROTC and JROTC, scouting, monuments and memorials, law and order, and national and homeland security programs, according to the organization’s website.

In his welcome, retired Col. Erwin Burtnick, commander of the George G. Meade chapter of MOWW, said the organization is the only one in the country that sponsors a massing of the American flag and military standards.

“This occasion allows us to commemorate the sacrifices of military men and women since the founding of the republic,” Burtnick said. “It is nobler to serve than to be served is the basis for what we do.”

About 35 military, civic, youth and law enforcement organizations paraded their colors inside the Pavilion during the traditional procession.

After the procession, the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard of the Military District of Washington posted the colors. The Concert Band and Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band performed the national anthem.

Patrick Fuller, a student at Perry High School in Nottingham, Md., led the audience in the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Deputy Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Cooper gave the invocation.

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps perform during Fort Meade’s Memorial Day Remembrance and the 31st Annual Massing of the Colors on Sunday at the Pavilion. (Photo by Phil Grout)

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the official escort of the president of the United States, then gave a special performance.

During his welcoming address, Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard thanked the audience “for honoring our service members who gave their last full measure in defense of our country.”

Rickard praised McLaughlin for his dedication, patriotism and devotion to the nation.

In his remarks, McLaughlin called Memorial Day “one of the most sacred days of our country” and that “the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in defense of the nation have set the stage for all the freedoms we enjoy today.”

McLaughlin said if one could ask the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice if they thought they had done “something special,” they would just say they were “doing their job.”

“They were serving their country,” McLaughlin said. “They were taking care [of] and protecting their buddies. They were doing what’s expected. Nothing special.”

The American flag, for which the massing of the colors is held, is ‘the greatest symbol of the nation,” McLaughlin said.

To end his remarks, McLaughlin said that as a nation, “even in the midst of the turmoil you see in the world today, we must always strive personally and collectively to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have come before us.”

After the speech, Rickard presented McLaughlin with a slate from the old roof of garrison headquarters decorated with a decoupage of photos of famous military leaders who had served at Fort Meade.

The blessing of the colors, playing of “Taps” and the benediction followed.

The Concert Band and Soldiers’ Chorus then performed a 25-minute concert of patriotic songs.

The event ended with a recession of the colors.

Retired Marine Sam Harris, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Bowie that participated in the massing, said the remembrance was a “special occasion.”

“It’s a sense of pride, integrity and dignity that we should pass along to the younger generation,” he said. “It means a lot. It has spiritual value to me.”

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