| inaugural festivities meet the incoming President's desires.
For this inauguration, the PIC was named just before Thanksgiving. This distinguished group had six weeks to arrange every detail of each inaugural event, said Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Duane Lodrige who directs the day-to-day work of the Joint Task Force - Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.
Noting the Armed Forces have been involved in inaugurations for every commander-in-chief since George Washington in 1789, Lodrige said those in uniform, especially deployed troops will be a central theme in the 55th Presidential Inauguration, at the direction of the president.
"The president and the first family always guides the tone of inaugural events," he said. For example, it was at Dolley Madison's insistence that the first inaugural ball was held in 1809, beginning a wildly popular tradition. Today, a special ball called the Commander in Chief's Ball will highlight those who their nation in the military.
"The President's inaugural team came out early saying that many festivities will honor the contributions of our Armed Forces with the theme: "Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service." Kicking off events this week is a pre-inaugural commemoration at MCI center called "America's Heroes: A Salute to Those Who Serve" featuring Bebe Winans, Heather Hadley and more entertainment. Other military-appreciation events will follow all week.
With nearly 140,000 troops serving in Iraq and even more deployed in other worldwide locations, Lodrige said the Presidential Inauguration Committee is seizing this occasion to focus American's attention on the ways in which U.S. forces help pave the way worldwide for freedom and democracy.
"We're here to help the President's inaugural team stage one of the most patriotic events of American life," Lodrige said, noting the mission of Joint Task Forces - Armed Forces Inaugural Committee for the big day, Jan. 20, is to coordinate the feeding, transportation, medical, and command/control requirements for about 13,500 parade participants, both civilian and military. "As we complete these tasks here in the nation's capital," Lodrige said, "we do it with extra motivation because we know the President is adding special honors for our brothers and sisters serving their nation in the military."