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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gray Matters: A Super-Patriotic Town

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shortly after seeing the local coverage of the Veterans' Honor Flight to Washington DC in July, I was pleased to see similar coverage in the weekly paper from Fredericksburg, Texas, the Hill Country town in which my late husband and I used to winter.

It was a town similar in size to Cherokee when we lived there; by now it has reached a population of something over 10,000. I found it interesting that delegations from the two towns enjoyed that experience together.

There is an unusually patriotic spirit about Fredericksburg, and actually, I guess there are several reasons for that.First, it was the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the U S Pacific forces in WW II. The picturesque hotel owned by Nimitz' grandfather was built to resemble a steamship. Reportedly that gentleman, who had emigrated from a seaport area in Germany, was indulging in a bit of nostalgia.

The old Steamship Hotel has been converted into The National Museum of the Pacific War, which is dedicated to telling the story of those battles.The first addition to the site was the Japanese Garden of Peace, a Zen Garden gifted by the Japanese government as a tribute to the Nimitz Family.In all, the Museum area has expanded to cover a total of six-acres, including the George Bush Gallery, featuring the experiences of George H.W. Bush who gallantly served as a Navy Pilot in that war.

Live WW II enactments are presented by the National Museum six times each year and there is also a very active Junior Naval ROTC in the local public high school.All of this, I am sure, contributes to the increased patriotic awareness.

In this vein, I read a most interesting article in a recent copy of the Fredericksburg Standard, which I would like to tell you about.It was written by U S Army Major Tom Hanifen.This officer, a third generation Army son, was a student at Virginia Military Institute when his parents chose Fredericksburg for their retirement home following his father's military service.

He described it as "a welcoming and proud American town with a rich history and a citizenry imbued with a strong patriotic sense of duty."He then went on to describe his time serving with The Old Guard, stationed at Fort Meyer, Va., where their duties include "providing funeral, ceremonial vigilance of the tomb and contingency operations within the National Capital Region which includes Arlington National Cemetery."

Hanifen explained that the rigorous physical requirements of The Old Guard include a height eligibility of at least 5'10."Being one of the taller recruits at 6'4" he was thrust into command of the Honor Guard Company. The ensuing description of his training, included incredible attention to the most minute details of their uniforms--each crease, pleat and buttonmust be just so. Vocal presentations of commands, the execution of each step of marching, as well as the wielding of the sabers, are perfected by weeks of training.

When on funeral duty, his company conducted as many as 12 to 18 funerals per day, mostly of retirees. During Major Hanifen's command they welcomed world leaders, including the Pope, Prime Ministers of Japan and Italy, and Presidents of Mongolia, France, Belgium and Ghana.

They were involved in a farewell tribute to President Bush and in all of President Obama's inaugural events. Out of all of this activity, Major Hanifen considered his command at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, the most moving and most rewarding. I am sure our local men who participated in the Honor Flight as well as all others who have witnessed that ceremony would totally agree.