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Monday, June 16, 2008

Army Birthday Celebration

Group photo of the Soldiers' Home visiting the Pentagon on Friday 13 June 2008

Me, at the Pentagon, checking out new electronic sensor display

Clan Henderson at the Potomac Celtic Festival, Saturday 14 June 2008

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

On Friday the Thirteenth, a group of us from the Soldiers' Home went to the Pentagon for a celebration of the two hundred and thirty-third birthday of the United States Army.

You can't see me in the Soldiers' Home's group photo (unless you try really hard), because I'm standing directly behind another guy.

I was greeted by numerous soldiers and veterans when they observed my cavalry stetson, for they were also cavalry troopers, and were pleased to see me dressed up in my coat and tie, wearing my medals, with spurs on my boots, and my stetson atop my head.

I wore the Clan Henderson necktie and the Clan Henderson tie pin.

We were given a tour inside the Pentagon to their 9-11 Memorial and chapel, which the public never sees, and our guide pointed out exactly where the plane hit (it was at the very door we entered).

(A 9-11 Memorial for the public is under construction outside the Pentagon.)

I also saw soldiers from the armies of Great Britain and Australia.

As part of the ceremony, a bunch of youngsters were sworn into the United States Army, and a bunch of regulars were given their oath of reenlistment.

The birthday cake was cut with a sabre, held by the United States Army's oldest soldier (he's a seventy year old colonel) and the United States Army's youngest soldier.

We then sang "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" and "THE ARMY SONG".

There were lots of displays of new equipment to be used in combat.

In the above photograph, I'm examining some electronic sensors used to detect enemy troop movement, as I compare the capabilities of the modern equipment with similar experimental electronic sensors used in Viet Nam.

I was very surprised to see a blonde female wearing an ao dai, the traditional dress in Viet Nam.

When I went to talk to her, I saw she was actually a Vietnamese, and had dyed her hair.

She told me she was also in the United States Army.

We were treated to a light lunch in the Pentagon's central court.

Early the next morning, which was the Fourteenth of June, the actual birthday of the United States Army, I drove to Leesburg, Virginia to attend the Potomac Celtic Festival.

Clan Henderson's tent was situated right next to the Washington Area Folk Harp Society, which meant two things.

First, we'd enjoy listening to the soothing sounds of harpists (and I love listening to the harp).

Second, I wasn't going to get much of an opportunity to play my guitar and sing.

I think I only sang a total of three songs, CALEDONIA, THE LAST FAREWELL, and THE SKYE BOAT SONG.

To tell the truth, I was already exhausted from the previous day's visit to the Pentagon, so I was struggling to do anything at all.

Present at Clan Henderson's tent were Commissioner Leon Hicks, his son Chris Hicks, Chris' girlfriend, Loretta Huertas Del Pino, and Christian Garin, head of the clan bodyguard.

In the photograph, you can see me holding forth my sword.

I'm the guy with the whiskers.

The day was quite hot, but we had plenty of ice, bottled water, and beer, with a bottle of lemonade for me.

Christian Garin generously contributed smoked trout, buffalo wings, crackers, pita chips, and two kinds of cheese.

We were not far from one of the entertainment stages, so we could watch Irish step dancing.

Interestingly, there were several reenactment groups there, including the Roman Twentieth Legion, which fought against the famous Celtic queen, Boudicca.

Led by two ladies on horseback, we marched in the grand parade, to the music of one lone bagpiper.

Leon Hicks bore our clan shield, and Christian Garin and myself escorted him with our swords drawn and held in salute.

Apparently, there were no Scottish bagpipe bands, nor drummers at the festival.

Oddly, among the massed colors, someone had forgotten to include a Scottish flag.

Also, so far as I could see, there was no exhibition of Highland dancing, nor were there any Scottish athletic competions.

Again, I was disappointed to see no Confederate battle flag displayed anywhere at the festival, except for the one that was mounted atop the passenger window of my own pickup truck.

In past years, when I first began attending Scottish games and Celtic festivals, there were Confederate battle flags included among all the other national banners.

It was a beautiful sunny day, until - - -

From out of nowhere, a severe storm suddenly materialized out of nothing, and within only a few minutes, we were struggling to take down the tent, pack everything up, haul everything up the hill to the trucks, and load everything, with the wind and rain soaking us to the skin.

My Rebel flag wasn't mounted properly, and the storm was making it wobble and rattle the passenger window, so I had to run out into the soggy downpour and bring my flag inside the cab, lest the stormy winds cause damage to the cab's window.

It was slow getting home, with lots of stop and go traffic.

When I got to Silver Spring, I topped off my fuel tank.

Eight and four fifths (8.852) gallons of regular gasoline cost me thirty-six dollars and ninety-nine cents ($36.99).

When I arrived at the Soldiers' Home, I was totally bushed, and my back was really hurting bad.

So, I put all my stuff away, ordered some pizza, took a bunch of pills, and got a good night's sleep.

Now, I'm feeling much better.

Thank you.

John Robert "SAIGON" Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

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