Friday, October 3, 2008

Deployment Ceremony

There was a deployment ceremony today in downtown Dover for the 361st Signal Brigade, a unit of the Delaware National Guard. They are headed out for a period of training in Texas and then to Iraq. These ceremonies are not all that unusual, but this one was special in part because Delaware's Attorney General, Beau Biden, is a captain in the unit and his dad, Senator Joe Biden, was on hand.

I understand that our Governor, Senators and Congressman often attend these ceremonies, and address the troops. Senator Biden's status as VP-candidate, with the Secret Service complications that go along with that, made this one a little different. Streets were closed all around the site of the ceremony -- Legislative Mall in front of Legislative Hall. Access to the ceremony itself was strictly controlled, but we were able to watch from outside a guarded perimeter.

A colleague and I took a short break early in the day and checked out preparations. A crew was erecting a flag-draped ceremonial arch for the Brigade to march under. We spotted Captain Biden on the street in front of our office. We stopped for a quick chat and, why not, a photo. Beau Biden is a nice guy; friendly and charming. You can see his dad in him.

At eleven, the brigade marched a short way down Legislative Avenue, under that ceremonial arch, and onto the Mall. They were preceded by a group of police on motorcycles, a platoon of Harley-mounted Patriot Guard Riders, and a set of bag-pipers. The Patriot Guard group, by the way, included Delaware blogger Shirley Vandever, the Delaware Curmudgeon.

The ceremony itself featured short speeches by the leadership of the Delaware National Guard, the Governor, the Senators and a representative of our Congressman (who was back in Washington to vote on the bailout). We expected Senator Biden to avoid the election in his remarks and he seemed to do so; his was the shortest address. The CNN story has the heart of it:

"I've come here many times before as a Delawarean, as a United States senator," he told a crowd in Dover. "But today I come, as you prepare to deploy, as a father -- a father who had some sage advice from his son this morning: 'Dad, keep it short, we're in formation.' "

"My heart is full of love and pride. ... You are the best demonstration of both our nation's greatness and ... our people's goodness," he added.
I've long opposed the war in Iraq, but I couldn't help feeling a little choked up with pride and concern as I watched these men and women marching in my state's capitol. You can oppose the war and support the troops at the same time.

I also found myself watching some of the VFW guys who were in attendance in support of the younger troops today. I was standing a short way behind a Vietnam Vet. Did he get this sort of support? I hope so. In any case, we can still show him and his compatriots respect today.


Shirley Vandever said...

Mike, it was really great to meet you !

As to your question on whether or not Viet Nam vets got the same support, the answer is no. Many of my friends in the PGR are Viet Nam vets. They could tell you some stories, and one of the reasons they do what they do is so that it never happens again. Whatever their political views (and they run the gamut), showing these young (and some not so young) men and women that we support their sacrifice is important to everyone.

A beautiful day, and a semi-sweet sendoff.

Shirley Vandever said...


Thanks for the pictures ! Jimmy and I rarely get a picture of the two of us on the bike, so I stole that one for our personal use. He'll get a kick out of it, for sure....much appreciated.

Mike Mahaffie said...

Shirley, I guess you are right about the Vietnam Vets. Most that I have met have had similar experiences. I'm glad that we learned the lesson, though, that separates the soldiers from the policy. and maybe we're stating to make it up to the older guys now.

I confess that I read on your site that you would be at the ceremony, so I was watching for you in the bike parade. I also should note that I was impressed by how seriously you guys -- all the bikers -- took the event. There was a very clear sense of dignity.

And I hope you used "all sizes" to find and download the largest version of that picture. That will print much better, I think.

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