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 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'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 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.