Jun 9, 2004

We made it to the procession and it was amazing. Del and I reported this morning at 0700 for CTT, but CTT did not stand for Common Task Training, it meant Common Task Testing! Del and I were not ready for any kind of testing but were willing to muddle through it to get through the day. Unfortunately, we were told to report with our berets, but when we showed up, everyone had face camo on and were wearing their field caps, not berets! We felt out of place and thank God they called us out of the formation. They basically told us that we could leave and could do it in a few months. We went to work and were able to leave a little early to head downtown. The caisson was scheduled to arrive at the Ellipse from Andrews AFB at 1800. I figured we would need to find a spot by 1600 to make sure we were up front. We went back to the hotel and I managed to grab a quick one hour nap since I only got about 3-4 hours last night thanks to my screwed up body schedule. Scott and I jumped on the Metro. We walked down to 7th and Constitution and found a spot in the shade, just behind a family. They were standing down on the street right behind the barricade so we were able to stand on the curb right behind them. Larry finally met up with us and we waited 1800 to roll around. As we stood there, we all struck up conversation with various people around us; military people in uniform, families, one guy had a mini TV and was able to tell us where the casket was. There were plenty of Secret Service agents up and down the street. We could even see some security forces atop the buildings – snipers perhaps?

The procession reached us led by lots of motorcycles and military color guard. Then one by one – different companies of soldiers passed us. I don’t think any of us expected any troops to pass us like they did! There was at least one company from every force, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and even the Coast Guard. The military academies also sent a company of cadets. It was great to see our present and future soldiers marching. All the major military bands were also in attendance. They sounded great and I was very impressed. It seemed like all the troops were marching at a slower cadence than normal. Maybe this was part of the ceremony – everything seemed to move in slow motion. All the movements of the troops, including salutes, were slow and deliberate. The crowd applauded several times as the sound of the marching feet against the pavement droned on and on. It was inspiring. The troops truly made me proud to be a soldier. Several times during the parade, I thought to myself, “This is sooo cool. I can’t believe this. I am so glad I’m here”

Finally, the caisson approached. The crowd grew silent as the clip clop of the horses grew louder. The flag draped coffin came in to view and it was an awesome sight. I couldn’t believe that the same casket that we had seen on TV earlier in the week was about to pass us. The caisson grew closer and finally passed directly in front of us. I was so fascinated by the sight that I almost forgot to snap some pictures. I snapped a few as the caisson was pulled into the distance. In seconds, the vehicle carrying Nancy Reagan passed us. There she was with her glasses on, peering out of the window, waving occasionally. In the few seconds that I saw her, she looked slightly dazed... expressionless and tired, as she has looked all week long. After all, this was only Wednesday – she will stay in the spotlight for the rest of the week.

The motorcade drove into the distance and was soon out of sight. People started leaving, but we knew that there was going to be a military flyover when the caisson reached 4th Street. We stayed our ground and peered upward as people scattered. Then we heard the low drone of the F-15s. Where were they coming from? I heard that they were flying south to north, perpendicular to Constitution; others around us said they were coming down parallel to Constitution. The first set of four came into sight as they flew over the building across the street from us, perpendicular like I had heard. As the first one flew over us and away, the sound of the jets made it to the ground. The sounds was so intense, my heart was beating hard as I tried to get my camera ready for a shot if the next formation. The roar from the F-15s was awesome! I snapped a few more pictures as they thundered overhead. Finally, the last set came into view, and just as it did, one peeled off and flew straight up in the missing man formation. I snapped a few shots and lowered my camera and just stood there, gazing up at the sky. I felt alone as the roar of the lone jet above me grew quieter. When I could no longer see it, I remembered where I was and we finally left the side of the road where I had witnessed history in the making.

The crowd was just crazy!! We decided we should grab a bite to eat first and let the crowd inundate the metro first. We walked into an area near Chinatown and ducked into a pub called Fadó. Here I thought Fadó was an Austin original. I had no idea they were a chain! We each ordered a sandwich and had a pint. We toasted to the late President Reagan – may he rest in peace.

Photos from the procession can be found here.

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