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Celebrating freedom, honoring service: Airmen participate in nation's most prestigious ceremony.

As George Washington made his way to New York City's Federal Hall to be sworn in as our nation's first president April 30,1789, Revolutionary War veterans marched by his side. Two hundred sixteen years and 43 presidents later, the military has played an integral role in every presidential inauguration.

For the 55th presidential inauguration, more than 5,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen converged in Washington, D.C., to support the swearing in of George W. Bush for his second term. Servicemembers played many diverse roles. They formed a cordon lining the 1.6-mile parade route from Capitol Hill to the White House. Others marched in the parade and many provided honor guard services and musical tributes during the various balls and galas during the 10-day celebration.

As a member of the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee--a core group of 700 servicemembers--Master Sgt. John Martella turned over his ground safety manager responsibilities for the day and stepped in as president. The 21-year Air Force veteran role-played the former President George H.W. Bush during an inaugural practice session just before the main event in January.

"As a dad myself I tried to imagine what it would be like to be on the swearing-in platform and watch one of my children be sworn in as President of the United States," said Sergeant Martella who served as leader for the 21-person role-player team.

Like Sergeant Martella, the task force had been planning inaugural activities for a year before the president stepped on the Capitol Hill platform to take the oath of office. Task force members coordinated all military ceremonial support of the inaugural events, including music, marching bands, color guards, ushers, firing details and salute batteries.

Whether Airmen worked behind the scenes or were thrust into the spotlight, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray said on inauguration day, "To be part of the inauguration, swearing in and the parade--there couldn't be anything greater for our Airmen."
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Author:Varhegyi, Jim
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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