By A. R. Graham.
I stood by the bay near Il Fornaio restaurant on a lovely September morning watching the morning sun rise above our Magical Kingdom by the Sea.
The baritone singer could be heard from 200 yards away: “Back in 1893, the CPO he said to me…” As the singing drew nearer to me, I also heard a large group of other male voices echoing the sing-song lyrics: “Back in 1893, the CPO he said to me…” They jogged into view with the song now booming loudly across the bay. It was a group of soon-to-be Navy chiefs led by two very athletic officers. As they jogged by, they all paid their respects to the civilians who walked past them. “Good morning, Sir. Good morning, Ma’am.”
As the group passed by, it was evident that they were thoroughly tired from the arduous exercising. Very soon there after, I thought that they had stopped for a well-deserved rest. This was not the case at all. For when I decided to take a closer look, I saw the men standing rigid as they were called to attention by the tough-looking officer.
“Left face,” the squad moved in perfect unison, and with just a slight pause, the officer spoke again, “and salute.” Again, the squad in unison with a snap of the wrist followed by a crisp salute, they obeyed.
Out on the bay, it was calm. The buildings on the skyline were gleaming in the morning sun. It was a magnificent day. Now, I understood why they were saluting and why it was not just more practice. Off to the left, a U.S. warship sailed slowly into view. The vessel passed slowly by and the squad stood there like proud sentinels saluting until it sailed by. The officer barked again, “Right face. Move out!” The squad was on the move again and the singing resumed. The ship disappeared into a slight morning mist as the perspiring chief petty officers jogged away.
I called out to the lead officer to ask him to explain why they had stopped their work-out. He graciously took the time and said, “That vessel out there proudly displays our flag, and when we see it pass by we salute it. In fact, we salute the flag each time we see it.”
So through this wonderful patriotic ritual displayed for all of us to enjoy, we can be very proud that we are part of the sacred observance.