Memories of an Inauguration.

An email from a college classmate just jogged my memory.  I was in an inaugural parade!

It was in January 1969, and Richard Nixon was about to take office, being elected by promising to end the Vietnam War.  I was in my third year at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA), and mine was one of six cadet squadrons selected to march.  It was quite an honor, especially since it got us out of several days of class.

Vietnam was another divisive time for our nation.  We were billeted at Bolling AFB in Washington, DC.  We had a bit of free time, but were told not to go to certain areas of the city in uniform because it wasn’t safe because of Vietnam protests.  I didn’t go off-base.  (It’s amazing how our military has gone in and out of favor throughout history, depending on the circumstances.)

We wore parade dress despite bitterly cold weather (I think the high was in the 20s) because in the parade four years earlier, USAFA had worn overcoats and all the other academies were in parade dress.  So of course this time they all wore their overcoats and we almost froze;  each time we had a break, we all formed a huge scrum for warmth.  At that time we still marched with World War II-era M1 rifles, and they were all inspected to make sure the firing pins were removed.

As for the parade itself, troops in battle dress lined the parade route.  We were one of the middle squadrons of six and we had a hard time keeping in step because our band was in front and we were equidistant between our band and the band in back (Coast Guard, I think), and they were playing a slightly different cadence.  Which band we could hear depended on which way the wind was blowing.  The reviewing stand was to our left,  so we did an “eyes left”  instead of the usual “eyes right” and I did catch a glimpse of Nixon.

My other memory was Mom was so excited she and all her friends were watching for me on TV.  Except when USAFA came into view, the network cut away to cover Lyndon Johnson flying out of Andrews Air Force Base back to his home in Texas, and none of us got on camera.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they heard Mom screaming all the way to Washington.


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