- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

Honor. Courage. Commitment. Look to the young men and women of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., to put a face to these ideals.Every summer since 1956, these Marines have paid a public tribute to their fallen comrades, presenting sobering and delightful sunset parades every Tuesday in the shadow of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery.

It is a fitting backdrop linking past to present: The memorial, a bronze monument modeled after the famous flag-raising by Marines on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II, is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.

An enthusiastic crowd of spectators, greeted by Marines in their striking formal uniforms, turned out recently for the first sunset parade of the 2003 season. The several thousand visitors took grassy ringside seats for the breathtaking audio and visual experience courtesy of the marching and musical units of the oldest post of the corps.

The sunset parade features nearly 200 Marines who fill out the ranks of two companies. Each program includes a handful of musical selections by the U.S. Drum and Bugle Corps, the presentation of colors, a performance by the Silent Drill Platoon, and a “pass and review,” a marching sequence in which the guest of honor reviews the units.

The parade is an opportunity for Americans — or anyone, because the parade attracts many foreign visitors — to interact with the Marines, says Capt. Fred Catchpole, a public affairs officer for Marine Barracks.

“Visitors can see firsthand the pride and patriotism that Marines throughout history have embodied,” he says. “The Marines of today are no different, and we’ve been able to witness this during the recent combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Kim Mott was not really thinking about combat ops. The Greensboro, N.C., teen had scored a front-row seat at the parade with 12 members of her family, both local and visiting, to celebrate her 15th birthday.

“It’s great,” she says. “Really fun,” she adds, clutching the remnants of her birthday cake and smiling at the handsome young Marines serving as hosts.

Cpl. Kevin Wilkins, 22, of Wilmington, Del., is part of the Silent Drill Platoon, which wows the audience with its precision spins, taps and tosses. Just last week, he says, the team returned from Paris, where it had performed in a ceremony to commemorate World War I’s Battle of Belleau Wood (1918).

These Marines are the best at what they do, and people love to watch them, he says.

“It makes them feel better about America. When people come to the parade, they see their husbands, fathers and brothers who are in the military everywhere. Seeing us at our best, they see the past, present and the future of the military, and it makes them feel proud.”


Location: The sunset parade of the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., is held at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, near Arlington National Cemetery.

Performance schedule: The 2003 season runs every Tuesday evening through Aug. 19. The performances, which last for one hour, begin at 7 p.m.

Admission and seating: The sunset parade is open to the public at no charge, and reservations are unnecessary. Spectators are invited to bring chairs, blankets and picnic dinners for informal seating on the lawns surrounding the memorial. No other type of seating is available except for invited guests of the parade reviewing officials.

Parking: No public parking spaces are available at the memorial grounds on parade evenings, but visitors have several options. Take Metro’s Orange or Blue line to the Rosslyn station and cross the bridge over Route 50 on foot to the memorial site. Guests also may park at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitors’ Center. The cost is $1.25 per hour for the first three hours and $2 per hour thereafter. Marine Barracks provides a free shuttle service from the visitors’ center to the memorial grounds from 6 to 7 p.m. before the parade and from 8 to 9 p.m. following the parade.

About rain: Marine Barracks public affairs staff say the parade is run even if the sky is misty or sprinkling. The event is canceled in case of driving rain or thunder.

Information: Call 202/433-4173. The Web site is www.mbw.usmc.mil.

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