The 59th Presidential Inauguration will feature a virtual parade with representatives from all U.S. states and territories that includes military and veteran organizations. “Parade Across America” will showcase performances that celebrate America’s heroes and highlight the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country, according to a press release from the Presidential Inaugural Committee. It will be livestreamed online Wednesday starting at 3:15 p.m. EST.
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), an organization that provides comfort, care and resources to all those grieving the death of a military loved one, has had a presence at every inauguration since the group’s existence. COVID-19 restrictions and security concerns led event planners to create a virtual platform this year, and Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of TAPS, says she is “honored” to participate in any way they can.
“It is very different. Primarily, of course, our nation has now lost hundreds of thousands to COVID illnesses and our number one concern is keeping our families safe. A large number of our families have lost additional loved ones in their larger circle to this illness and we take this very seriously. TAPS was so honored to be asked to participate in any way, however that is possible,” she explained.
Carroll founded TAPS in 1994 after the death of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, two years earlier. She shares what an event like Inauguration Day means to her and other surviving family members.
“I think of my husband’s service in the Army and his sacrifice to this nation,” she said. “TAPS is the organization that provides families of America’s fallen heroes with a safe place to grieve their losses, find their community, and honor their loved one — regardless of how or where that loved one died, they lived a life of selfless service to their country. On Inauguration Day, we celebrate our democracy and all that is best about it.”
The Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars State Honor Guard is using its participation to pay special tribute to “The Greatest Generation” of World War II and to today’s “Newest Greatest Generation,” Brian Willette, Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars State Sergeant-at-Arms, said.
Since his group can’t be in D.C. in the traditional sense, veterans went to a local landmark called Szot Park that has a backdrop of a tank from World War II. Their video presentation pays tribute to the incoming administration, Willette said. For him, Inauguration Day is a time for all Americans to come together.
“It means a lot. Washington D.C. to us is a very special place. My father was in the 3rd Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard at Fort Myer, in the Honor Guard. We’re both members of the Old Guard Association,” he said. “This day is a day that all Americans come together — and I guess nowadays for one brief moment — we come together to salute the new president and wish him well and for us to be a part of that moment of unity, for us is very important.”
The Honor Guard participants are all life members of the VFW who have all served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Willette was joined for the presentation by Massachusetts Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christine Lupacchino, Army veteran Eric Segundo, Navy veteran Rene Fuertes, and Marine and Air Force veteran Keith Buckhout.
“Parade Across America” will also include the Native American Women’s Veterans Warriors on behalf of the state of Connecticut, and performances from the United States Coast Guard Band and the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.