America’s new President, Barack Obama campaigned on the twin single-worded “platforms” of “Hope” and “Change.” Some of us saw little or no hope in Obama’s reign and had unsettling – to say the least – expectations of what sort of change he would bring onto our country. Very sadly, we’ve not been – even in this minuscule amount of time since Obama’s inauguration – proven too far wrong.
For the first time in 56 years and 14 inaugurations the incoming POTUS did not attend this celebration. In point of fact, this is first time in the The Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball’s history that the incoming President did not attend.
The Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball, first held for President Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1953, recognized recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. Forty-eight (48) of the ninety-eight (98) living Medal of Honor recipients were in attendance that night, but not the man who now holds the rank of Commander in Chief.
The Obamas did find time to celebrate though. The President and First Lady made appearances at (in order of attendance):
- The Neighborhood Ball
- The Home State Ball, for Illinois and Hawaii
- The Commander-in-Chief Ball
- The Youth Inaugural Ball
- Home State Ball for Delaware and Pennsylvania
- Mid-Atlantic Regional Ball
- Western Regional Ball
- Midwest Regional Ball
- Southern Regional Ball
- Eastern Regional Ball
America’s new President seemed to have preferred celebrations attended by the famous, the powerful, the movers and shakers in American society over those attended by- and honoring those people who gave more than than anyone – or anything beyond dire circumstance – asked of them to ensure that someone like Obama could be inaugurated as President of the United States.
Perhaps President Obama didn’t want to attend an event where long-standing custom, if not official military protocol, would require him to salute 48 men. The Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball is the only gala during the inauguration celebrations that is not primarily focused on the incoming President; it’s focused on that POTUS honoring our most valiant heroes. Perhaps that didn’t sit well with Obama or his staff.
Perhaps President Obama was uncomfortable being at event with so many of his betters – and they are his betters, as they are equally my – and most likely your – betters. It might be difficult for someone like Obama to be humbled before people who have done and given more than he can ever give and with far less possibility of regard for it than he stands to gain. To be fair, I’d be uncomfortable and humbled in the presence of 48 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Perhaps – and this really is the most likely reason – Obama and his staff were just ignorant and uncaring. His itinerary was chosen for him based on social and political benefits and with no regard for honor or tradition. It might have been nothing more than a stupid rookie mistake, the type we might have to become accustomed to over the next four years.
A Final Note
I’m not much for the overt trappings of supposed patriotism and honor. Wearing flag pins in one’s lapel, putting some stickers on one’s car, or flying the American flag from one’s house doesn’t define patriotism to me. To me patriotism and honor are about what one chooses to do and chooses not to do. This disrespect to our nation’s greatest and most selfless heroes sets me off though.
I’m wildly upset over this. I’m actually hurt more than I can properly convey – and I’m not completely sure why. If I judge by my own time in the Service, then these men didn’t do what they did for accolades, so President Obama’s exclusion really doesn’t matter to them – and shouldn’t matter as to me as it does.
And yet…It hurts.
I’ve fought, killed, and bled on several continents in the service of America. I’ve handed a young widow a well-folded flag with all due ceremony in exchange for her husband, who was closer to me than a brother, and had her curse me for it. I’m not even close to being the same league with the 48 men who were at the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball though. I know I shouldn’t presume to speak for them or project my feeling onto them. Yet I’m hurt and ashamed that our nation has reached this point in our history. I am – and have always been – proud and grateful to be an American, but I’m having a hard time finding a source of other than shame and humiliation in Obama’s actions.
Someone else far better than I ever had any hope of being summed it up very well indeed.
Dusty old helmet, rusty old gun,
They sit in the corner and wait –
Two souvenirs of the Second World War
That have withstood the time, and the hate.
Mute witness to a time of much trouble.
Where kill or be killed was the law –
Were these implements used with high honor?
What was the glory they saw?
Many times I’ve wanted to ask them –
And now that we’re here all alone,
Relics all three of a long ago war –
Where has freedom gone?
Freedom flies in your heart like an eagle.
Let it soar with the winds high above
Among the spirits of soldiers now sleeping,
Guard it with care and with love.
I salute my old friends in the corner,
I agree with all they have said –
And if the moment of truth comes tomorrow,
I’ll be free, or By God, I’ll be dead!
Freedom Flies In Your Heart Like An Eagle
— 2nd Lt. Audie Murphy
Poet, Soldier, Medal of Honor Recipient
I’ll leave you with Lt. Murphy’s words. It’s too hard for me to continue with this post.