How many times have there been standing ovations, and perhaps tears as well, for individuals posing in what’s known as a tableau?
I’d bet such reactions happen every time members of Birmingham’s Howlin’ Mad Smith No. 592 Detachment of the Alabama Marine Corps League present their reenactment of Joe Rosenthal’s historic photograph of the raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima in 1945.
The only other time I’d seen the Iwo Jima flag raising reenactment was several years ago when I was covering the event for this newspaper. The presentation had been part of a patriotic ceremony staged in the Tallassee High School auditorium.
Tallassee’s fifth annual Patriotic Celebration was held at the Mt. Vernon Theatre on June 20 and the uplifting event epitomized why this community has such a laudable reputation for love of country. The master of ceremonies was retired Air Force Lt. Col. Don Bryant, a Vietnam veteran and a retired Tallassee High School teacher.
This time, my attendance and that of my family was voluntary.
Leslye Ames and Justin Harden (on piano and piccolo, respectively) got the proceedings off to an impressive start with a rousing arrangement of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Other musical contributors included Jerry Cunningham and James Bush singing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the Tallassee Community Choir and Susie Seal. Sharon Harper played the piano.
Boy Scout Troop 59 presented the colors, another tradition that is always inspirational because it focuses on patriotism in younger generations.
Prior to his invocation, former city councilmember Charles Blalock made some profound and powerful remarks. Likewise, police chief Matt Higgins recounted his own service experiences that were more extensive, particularly in foreign combat zones, than some folks might have known.
A slideshow presented photos of Tallassee military veterans, and attendees who were veterans were saluted.
The final segment of the program was the Iwo Jima reenactment and it was as incredibly moving for those who were seeing it again as it was for those experiencing it for the first time.
The reenactors marched out with a large American flag. When they abruptly assumed the pose seen in Rosenthal’s image, they looked like they had been chiseled from stone. The meaningfulness of what that legendary photograph entailed, including the number of servicemen who perished on that island, wasn’t lost on the members of the audience, who responded enthusiastically.
Maybe I’m a curmudgeon but I do have a couple of criticisms about the June 20 event which have nothing to do with the presentation itself.
First, while there was a decent-sized crowd, the place wasn’t full. Tallassee is a very patriotic community which infers the event should have been standing-room only.
There also should have been more young people in attendance. It was heartening to see the participation of the Boy Scouts but it seems like too few members of younger generations understand why Americans have fought and died in the defense of freedom. Perhaps events such as our annual Patriotic Celebration would be somewhat eye-opening if the kids could be compelled to turn off their iPhones for a couple of hours and pay attention to a salute to history.
I’ll have more to say about present-day patriotism as part of next week’s commentary.