Friday, June 5, 2009

Spacious skies, fruited plains. Up next: Purple mountains majesties.

I drove across most of South Dakota yesterday, on my way to Erin's wedding reception in Colorado Springs, and last night I had the privilege of being at Mt. Rushmore for the nightly lighting ceremony. It's not the first time I've been to this wonderful spot in the Black Hills, but every time is memorable.

The ceremony starts promptly at 9:00 p.m., with a 10-minute talk by one of the park rangers. Then a short film is shown (The park has a wonderful amphitheater, complete with a huge move screen on the stage) telling the story of the monument's construction and providing brief bios of the four presidents. When the film is over, the lights are turned on, and the audience is invited to stand and sing the National Anthem.

Once that is complete, the ranger invited every former and active member of the armed forces to come to the stage for the flag-lowering ceremony. I counted 79 men and women who made their way down, and stood at attention as the flag was lowered. Then the ranger passed the microphone to let every one of them say their name and service branch. The few hundred of us in the crowd gave them a huge ovation.

It was a wonderful night of unabashed patriotism, and a celebration of the American story. I know the Black Hills aren't the most convenient place to get to, but it's well worth the journey.

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