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President Wants 'Prominent' Military Inauguration Day Role

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2005 – Though the military has had a role in presidential inaugurations since George Washington took office, President Bush has requested that the military play an even more prominent role when he's sworn in for his second term Jan. 20.

"That was the president's choice," Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott told reporters during a conference call today from Capitol Hill announcing events for this year's inaugural program.

The inaugural ceremony will take place on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, and will feature patriotic musical performances before a crowd expected to number 250,000.

Lott, who heads the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said the "emphasis of the day and recognition of the military will be more than usual," adding that the president wanted a "prominence of military unit participation." The committee is charged with the oversight and planning of the presidential inauguration and related ceremonies on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

Military participation during inaugural ceremonies traditionally includes musical units, marching bands, color guards, firing details and salute batteries.

Though the theme for the inauguration -- "A Vision of America" -- commemorates American exploration, development and conservation, Lott added that the ceremony will show the country's gratitude for the military.

"This is about a vision of the future of America, but it's also a way to express our appreciation for the great job our military is doing around the world," the senator explained. "I think that throughout the day, and throughout the whole week, you will see every opportunity taken to express our appreciation to the military."

Navy Capt. Curt Reilly, director of public affairs for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, said the Defense Department is working with the Presidential Inaugural Committee to get invitations for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom troops to attend some of the inaugural events.

Much of the entertainment for the ceremony will be provided by military bands and singers. Scheduled to perform at the 2005 inaugural ceremony will be the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club and the "President's Own" U.S. Marine Corps Band. Also performing will be the Army Herald Trumpets and the Navy Sea Chanters.

Lott noted that for the first time in inaugural history, the Air Force will have a performing role. The U.S. Air Force Band will accompany tenor vocalist Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bradley Bennett, a member of the Air Force "Singing Sergeants," in performing the national anthem. Lott said Bennett's rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" should provide "one of the most memorable moments of the whole day."

Bennett, a native of Kent, Ohio, where he earned a degree in vocal music from Kent State University, said being chosen to sing at the inauguration is a "tremendous honor."

"It's very humbling, especially since it's the Air Force's first time," he said. "And I would just like to say 'thank you' again for this tremendous opportunity."

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the president will sign Cabinet nominations and later join invited guests for the traditional congressional luncheon. After lunch, he will then be escorted by Army Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman, commander of the Military District of Washington, to the east side of the U.S. Capitol for the pass in review of military units. Once again, the focus will be on the military, as some 400 military troops will march.

When a reporter suggested that some might expect a lower- key ceremony with the nation at war, Lott noted the president's desire to use the event to salute the people serving the nation in uniform. "I don't know how you would have made it lower-key and still have been able to express your appreciation verbally and vocally for what (military people) have done," the senator said.

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