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Montpelier, home of President James Madison, in Orange County, Va.

Photo by Chuck Jenks

President James Madison wreath-laying ceremony

25 Mar 2016 | Chuck Jenks Marine Corps Base Quantico

MONTPELIER, Va. — Perhaps the finest honor for Marines at Quantico is to represent the President of the United States during the annual wreath-laying ceremony for President James Madison at Montpelier, Virginia. This ceremony honored the birth of the nation’s fourth President and acknowledged him as the “Father of the Constitution.” This year’s ceremony marked the 265th anniversary of his birth, March 16.

Representing the President of the United States at the ceremony, Col. Allen Broughton, MCB Quantico chief of staff, Sgt. Maj. Gerald Saunders, MCB Quantico sergeant major, Command Chaplain Cmdr. Jeff Etheridge, the Base Color Guard and Rifle Detail — gathered at Madison’s Montpelier home to render respect to the nation’s fourth president and Founding Father James Madison. Also attending the ceremony was Sgt. Lindsay Bender, a bugler from the MCB Quantico Band who played Taps, and Marines from the Combat Visual Information Center who provided media coverage of the event. Sgt. Matthew Kies was the Rifle Line NCO who commanded the 21-gun salute by seven Marines with M16A2 rifles.

“President Madison did not think war was constructive, but understood that the nation needed to be ready to fight. For Marines, our ethos guides us to be the force that is most ready when the nation is the least ready…Our Nation’s Force in Readiness,” Broughton said during his remarks.

“As President Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state, President Madison supported the Louisiana Purchase, the war against the Barbary pirates, and the embargo against Britain and France in response to the harassment of American ships and threats upon American sailors.

“The turning point in the war against the Barbary pirates came with the Battle of Derna in 1805. Marine 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon led a mixed force of eight United States Marines, 500 mercenaries — Greeks, Arabs, and Berbers — on a march across the desert from Alexandria, Egypt to assault and to capture the city of Derna in Tripoli.

This was the first time in history that the United States flag was raised in victory on foreign soil. This action was memorialized in a line from the Marines’ Hymn — ”the shores of Tripoli,”?’ Broughton said.

“Personally and of greater importance to me,” Broughton said. “I remember President Madison as the ‘Father of our Constitution.’ The Constitution of the United States has endured for well over two centuries and helped shape the growth and success of our great Nation.”

“Our Constitution remains the object of reverence for nearly all Americans and an object of admiration for people around the world, but is of particular significance to the military service members who serve our country. It is the Constitution that all military officers base their service upon with an oath of office. We recite and re-affirm this oath at our commission as young second lieutenants and with every promotion that follows. The first pledge in our oath states: That I Will Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

“As representative of the President and of the Marine Corps, I am humbled and honored with this responsibility to meet with you and dedicate this wreath on behalf of a grateful nation; and to the memory and recognition of our fourth President. Semper Fidelis and thank you,” Broughton concluded.

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