As the sun set on another work week in the nation’s capital, thousands of people from all walks of life converged at the corner of 8th and I for an evening of family fun, history and to pay respect.
Veterans, tourists, students and everyone in between braved the sweltering heat and humidity as they settled into their seats at the “Oldest Post of the Corps” for one of the military’s greatest traditions.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was the guest of honor during the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., while Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, director, Defense Intelligence Agency, served as the host, July 29.
The ceremony, which can best be described as a healthy dose of pomp and circumstance mixed with old fashioned patriotism and precision, kicked off promptly at 8:45 p.m. with a concert by the U.S. Marine Band.
“This is a great personal honor,” Clapper said. “I will never forget the first time I was called ‘Marine,’ more than 54 years ago.”
Featuring music and precision marching in Clapper’s honor, the 75-minute performance included “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, “The Commandant’s Own” U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Corps Color Guard, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers and Lance Cpl. Chesty XIII, the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington.
“DNI James Clapper is clearly an individual who has risen to the highest ranks in his distinguished career,” said Lt. Col. Scott McDonald, chief, Communication, Plans and Integration Branch of U.S. Marine Corps Communications. “But before his Air Force and civilian careers, he started as a Marine rifleman. We felt it was appropriate to honor him because it’s great to show — regardless of the path we ultimately choose — just how much Marines can accomplish.”
Clapper’s distinguished military career began as a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1961 and culminated as a lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Although he spent three decades in an Air Force uniform, Clapper admitted he still feels a deep emotional and spiritual connection to the Marines all these years later.
“‘Marine’ is a powerful name to be called — something you have to earn,” said Clapper. “And once someone calls you, ‘Marine,’ it can never be taken from you.”
The Evening Parade, which is held every Friday during the summer, has become a universal symbol of the professionalism, discipline and esprit de corps of the Marines since 1957.
While few people will ever visit Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or travel overseas to witness firsthand Marines deployed in combat, anyone can attend this free event — which is why participants are held to the highest standard each and every Friday night.
“The Evening Parade gives decision makers and the general public a look at the professionalism of the Marines,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dana Stockton, personnel officer, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. “From the moment a vehicle pulls up, there is a Marine standing by to greet them at the curb. From the Marines seating visitors to those performing in the Evening Parade, they are there to demonstrate how much value the Marine Corps brings to the nation.”
“From the Marines seating visitors to those performing in the Evening Parade, they are there to demonstrate how much value the Marine Corps brings to the nation.”
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dana Stockton
Each week, more than 3,500 guests gather to witness this 59-year-old summertime tradition, which reflects the story of Marines stationed around the globe. Whether aboard ships, in foreign embassies, at recruit depots or anywhere else Marines serve, the individual Marine continually tells the story of the Corps.
Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., was established in 1801, and has performed military reviews and ceremonies since its founding. The present-day Evening Parade was first conducted July 5, 1957.
Presidential inaugurations and special occasions prompted the parades and ceremonies conducted at the Barracks during the early 1900s. The traditional reveille and morning muster parades were conducted with varying frequency at the post, and they eventually resulted in more formalized ceremonies.
In 1934, when Maj. Gen. John H. Russell, Jr. was the 16th commandant of the Marine Corps, the Barracks initiated its first season of regularly scheduled weekly parades, which were commonly referred to as “Sunset Parades.”
The ceremonies were conducted from April to November, concluding the week of the Marine Corps birthday, November 10.
The basic format for the current version of the Evening Parade is similar to that envisioned and directed by Col. Emile P. Moses and Maj. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., Marine Barracks’ commanding officer and executive officer respectively, in 1934.
The parade’s heritage is entwined with former military rituals such as tattoo, retreat and lowering of the colors ceremonies, and is offered solely to express the dignity and pride that represents more than two centuries of heritage for all Americans.
The first time Clapper saw Marines from Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., perform was back in 1961, while attending the platoon leader basic course in Quantico, Virginia.
“This is a great personal honor. I will never forget the first time I was called ‘Marine,’ more than 54 years ago.”
- DNI James Clapper
After countless hours of drill and ceremony training, Clapper’s drill instructors were fed up with the platoon’s inability to meet the Marine Corps standard, so they arranged for a trip to 8th and I.
It seemed only fitting that 55 years later, Clapper returned for one final performance before his planned retirement next year. The fact that it was in his honor was simply icing on the cake.