Armed Forces Day Appreciation Visit, Washington D.C.
16-17 May 2002
To celebrate Armed Forces Day weekend, Ship 25 departed for the Washington Navy Yard right after school on Thursday, 16 May 2002 and then stayed in D.C. through the next day. The youth participants assured the Skipper that the fact that they got an excused absence from school for Friday had absolutely NOTHING to do with their eagerness to sign up for this trip. Thursday evening was spent enjoying the music of the U.S. Navy Brass Quintet in concert at the Washington Navy Yard. Selections included old-favorites such as "Anchors Aweigh" (surprise, surprise!) and the new world premier performance of a bugle piece written by one of the quintet.
Then it was on to the National City Christian Church at 5 Thomas Circle NW for overnight berthing. This church is a huge cathedral only blocks from the White House, and was the regular house of worship for President Lyndon B. Johnson. Upon our arrival, Church Sexton and Security Officer Harry Bell gave us the "fear of God" tour of the Church, with such inspiring admonitions as, "If you hear gunshots or screams outside the church, just ignore them," "Don't open these outside doors for ANYONE," and our all-time favorite: "Sometimes street people come into the church during the day, hide behind the pews, and them come out at night. Get a good night's sleep." Thus reassured, we circled the wagons, strapped on our rigging knives, and dozed fitfully. Pleasantly surprised to find we were actually still alive the following morning, we set off in search of FOOD. Amazing discovery: there is only ONE McDonalds in Northwest DC, and it's on the wrong side of the street for Arlington-bound traffic. Arriving at Arlington National Cemetery only a LITTLE hungry, we got see the grave of President Kennedy, watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, observe an Army wreath-laying ceremony, and witness an actual burial, complete with horse-drawn caisson, band, flag-folding, rifle volley, and taps.
Our next stop was the Navy Memorial behind the National Archives building on the Mall. We were just in time to watch the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Drill Team perform at another wreath-laying ceremony. Then we went inside to tour the Navy exhibits. It just so happed that a Rear Admiral in full dress whites complete with sword was visiting, and he was kind enough to come over, say a few words of encouragement to us Sea Scouts, and shake our hands. We also got to meet one of our Skipper's old Navy buddies from his Viet Nam gunline sea tour onboard USS EDSON (DD-946). Former ship's yeoman (YN3) Larry Brown, now Attorney Larry Brown, U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Enforcement Division, told the crew tall tales about the Skipper in his younger days, which the skipper later assured us were probably total fabrications. Then it was back to the Washington Navy Yard for a personal guided tour of the Navy Museum facility by Assistant Director of Education, Karen Hill, and docent George ____. "Where are you from?" asked George. "York, PA," we replied. "Well, I'm a York High graduate, class of 194_," replied George, with evident delight. You can be sure we got the DELUXE tour, including behind-the-scenes views of exhibits not normally opened to the public.
The Skipper then acted as our tour guide for a whirlwind visit to the USS BARRY (DD-933), a Forrest Sherman class anti-submarine warfare destroyer berthed at the Navy Yard. BARRY is a sister ship to EDSON, the Skipper's old ship. The Skipper was heard to make remarks such as, "Arrrrrrrgh, it's great to be a sea again!" and "They just don't build 'em like this anymore." ["Probably for a good reason," thought the rest of us.]
The final stop at the Navy Yard was McDonalds. AT LAST! Then we hiked five blocks uptown to the United State Marine Barracks, 8th and I Streets, Washington, D.C. to wait in line for the general admission tickets for the USMC Sunset Parade. Our enthusiasm caused us to be there three hours early, so you can be sure we were at the head of the line. It started to cloud over, and then began to rain intermittently. Fortunately, we were right at a local bus stop, so it sheltered us from the downpour. Out in the streets, Marines in full dress uniforms directed traffic oblivious to the deluge. "If it ain't rain'in, it ain't train'in," said one. Marine Sergeant Kurtis Zeigler, immaculate in his parade dress blues, happened on by and chatted with us while we were waiting. In response to our request, he demonstrated the correct procedure for a perfect about-face. He then invited our crew into the Marine Barracks itself where we visited the gift shop to chat with other Marines while waiting for 2000 hours when the Commandant would make the final decision on whether or not to cancel the parade due to the inclement weather. Another sergeant at the barracks gift shop counter was so impressed with our crew that he gave us free USMC mugs. (Don't tell the General Accounting Office!). Sergeant Zeigler then invited us into the "inner sanctum" of the barracks, the Enlisted Men's Club. He arranged for us to have free use of the video game machines there. To our amazement, the games were of the "shoot-em up, blow them up" variety. At this point, the word came down that the Commandant had indeed canceled the parade - a very rare occurrence. However, with lightning predicted, and not wishing to have his Marines standing in the middle of an open parade field with the fixed bayonets on their rifles acting as lightning rods, it was obviously the correct decision. The friendly gift shop Marine provided the Skipper with a professional quality video tape of what a Sunset Parade is actually like, so we did get to see a typical parade, albeit virtual, from a far better vantage point than our general admission tickets would have provided us anyway.
The Skipper kept the Suburban (aka "the Ark") in the channel for home while the rest of the crew caught up on some much-needed sleep. We knew we'd be getting up at 0 dark thirty the next morning to help the Bo'sun with his Eagle project. But that's another story...... Here are some pics from your Sea Scout Eyewitness News Team:
Click on any thumbnail photo below to see the corresponding full-size photo. Viewing all the thumbnails before going back to click on enlargements will minimize disruption with the background music.
This page is from the website of SSS YORKSHIRE - Sea Scout Ship 25, York, PA, USA - http://ship25bsa.org