Soldiers Mark Inauguration as Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md.- Breath-taking. Overwhelming. Awe-inspiring. Once in a life time. That's how four Soldiers described their inaugural experience.
First Army Division East Soldiers became a part of history Monday when they not only attended the fifty-seventh Presidential Inauguration of our 44th president, but also the Commander in Chief's Ball.
"It was amazing," said Staff Sgt. Nate Gregg, a native of Darlington, S.C. "I've been looking forward to this moment for a very long time, and I was honored to be there."
The weather that day was a crisp thirty degrees with clear skies and strong winds.
"I can't believe I was there," said Sgt. Larry Templeton, a native of Oklahoma. "It was unbelievably cold, and the crowds were huge, but it was beyond breathtaking; it's something you would have to see in person."
Templeton added that it was slightly overwhelming with the amounts of people that showed up, and in no way comparison to the small Oklahoma town he's used to.
"My favorite part of the event was seeing the immense amount of citizens participate," said Templeton. "It's an amazing change of pace to physically see thousands of people together in a central location for a common cause."
It was reported that more than 800,000 people attended the inauguration.
"As a Soldier, to listen to our commander in chief take an oath so similar to the one we take was really remarkable," said Sgt. Courtney Selig, a Goffstown, N.H. native. "Standing there, knowing what words were coming next, and being able to say the oath along with him, reaffirmed to me that he is not just the president, he is my Commander-in-Chief. It brought home the common bond we share by pledging to do our best to defend our nation and way of life. I felt a sense of kinship that I didn't really feel before."
A mobilized National Guard Soldier with the New Hampshire National Guard, Selig deployed to Iraq in 2009. She has taken the oath twice since she enlisted. The oath of office is similar to that of the oath in which Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen alike take when they enlist in the Army and each time they reenlist.
According to Selig, after changing into their dress attire, the four Soldiers and two spouses arrived at the convention center at five o'clock in the evening. It took more than an hour to get from their hotel to the convention center for the Commander-in-Chief's Ball, but the wait was well worth it.
"It was such an honor to be there representing the Division," said Selig.
Despite the metro struggles and high-heeled chaos, they were finally in place for the festivities.
"Traffic was horrible, but it was amazing to be a part of the crowd," said Sgt. David Silbaugh, a Pittsburgh, P.A. native. "The atmosphere was nothing I've experienced before. I'm very thankful and grateful that my wife and I were able to attend this event together and with our fellow comrades."
Silbaugh added that when they offered him the tickets, he knew he wanted to attend because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"When I asked my wife if she wanted to attend, there was no hesitation," said Silbaugh. "Lindsey was out dress shopping before I could get the words out of my mouth," he added while smiling.
In addition to remarks by the nation's senior military and civilian leaders, the Division East Soldiers enjoyed performances at the ball, which included Brad Paisley and Alicia Keys.
Listening to the senior advisors for each military branch speak words of wisdom to their Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, brought home that they were in the presence of the greatest military fighting force in the world, said Selig.
"When the Joint Chiefs of Staff called the Soldiers down range via video teleconference during the actual ball, it was very surreal," said Templeton. "It warmed my heart to know they were thought of on this momentous occasion, and they could seemingly be a part of what we were experiencing."
The night wrapped up with a speech to the troops from President Barack Obama.
"Hearing our Commander-in-Chief address myself and my fellow Servicemembers, and being so close, was incredible," said Gregg. "This is an experience, which will not soon be forgotten."
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