There is only one word that can adequately describe the proceedings at the 2007 Military Ball: HOOORRRAAHHH!!!
More than 1,000 people converged on the Doubletree Denver Hotel on a drizzly Saturday evening so that they could personally witness the formal change of command of duties as Adjutant General for the State of Colorado from Major General Mason C. Whitney to Brigadier General H. Michael Edwards. It wasn't merely the passing of a torch and tradition, it was an extraordinary ceremony honoring two exemplary men, their families, the Colorado National Guard, the leaders of the State of Colorado and the patriotism, commitment to liberty and passion of our military mission for the United States of America.
It was an honor to be in the same room with Maj Gen Whitney, a man who has excelled in every aspect of his life: career, family, leadership; and, says Mrs. Whitney, "a man who walked in the door every day for the past 34 years with a smile on his face." Whether it be in his duties as a Top Gun, Top Husband or Top Father, which were chronicled superbly by a video put together by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hilton, Maj Gen Whitney has approached everything in his life with zest and that twinkle in his eye. The twinkle was evident Saturday evening as he stood on stage with Mrs. Whitney to thank attendees, special guests, dignitaries and friends. He reflected on his legendary career, from entering the Air Force in 1968 to missions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, to joining the Colorado Air National Guard in 1979 and becoming Adjutant General of Colorado in 2000. A quote in the video by Staff Sgt. Hilton, however, exemplifies the kind of man Maj Gen Whitney is: "in the midst of his command in which he was mitigating fires in Colorado, terrorism threats, fighting disasters, leading missions...he found the time to ask me how my newborn daughter was and remembered her name."
Maj Gen Whitney was accompanied on stage by his wife Miriam, his partner in his life and career. Brig Gen Mike Edwards joked "they got the power of twice the man for half the money." Mrs. Whitney stole the show with her speech that preceded her husband's, reminiscing about her role as a "TAG" spouse. She deadpanned about being a 'TAG-along,"--"a label I struggled with at first. I passed up the opportunity to get the TAG-along t-shirt," she smiled. "But I decided if they can name a best-selling Girl Scout cookie after it, then if it's good enough for the Girl Scouts, it's good enough for me." Mrs. Whitney proudly reflected on her life with her husband, and the "rich and exceptional experiences" they have had. "I'm proud of my husband, not only for his career accomplishments, but for the person I know him to be."
The new Adjutant General of Colorado as of May 1 will be Brig Gen Mike Edwards, who took the stage with much the same twinkle in his eye as Maj Gen Whitney. He thanked men and women currently serving in the Colorado National Guard and their families, and recognized special guests present, including Dr. Tom Boyt, who traveled from Indiana to see his old friend and Air Force Academy college roommate accept command. Crandall later joked "you're going to be the new Adjutant General of Colorado--and your best buddy has to drive back to Indiana??"
The evening was filled with pomp and circumstance as Governor Bill Ritter took the stage for a speech to thank Maj Gen Whitney and Mrs. Whitney for their service and to congratulate Brig Gen Edwards and his wife Laury as they begin their new challenge. Former Governor Bill Owens also said a few words, and reminisced about flying with Brig Gen Edwards. "We were flying one day in an F-16, and he asked control if he was cleared for a sandbox takeoff. I no sooner had the question out of my mouth about what that was, when we were headed straight up into the sky."
Contributing to the evening's formalities was the arrival of the Official Party through the Sword Cordon formed by members of the Colorado National Guard Joint Force Honor Guard, and the traditional "POW-MIA Table” ceremony, which is a solemn ceremony to honor those missing and absent members of the military service branches. This ceremony includes a single table set with five individual place settings, representing each branch of service, Army-Marines-Navy-Air Force-Coast Guard, and as part of this ceremony a glass at each place setting is symbolically raised and then turned over in honor of the missing and fallen, who were there in spirit.
There were countless standing ovations as the attendees stood in appreciation of the great service given by such extraordinary individuals, led by Major General and Mrs. Whitney and Brigadier General and Mrs. H. Michael Edwards. Appreciation was expressed for the leadership of former Governor Bill Owens, former First Lady Frances Owens and former Lt. Governor Jane Norton. There was a succession of toasts honoring these and other leaders present, and most important of all, the Veterans for their honorable and faithful service.
And to them, we all say, "HOOORRRAAHHH!!!"
The Colorado National Guard Foundation was established as a result of the Gulf War in 1991. Many Guardmembers experienced financial hardship due to their deployment. Today, the Foundation assists soldiers and airmen who are experiencing financial hardship and need assistance to pay their rent or utilities.
For more information, log on to: http://www.coloradoguard.army.mil/webpages/family/guard_foundation.htm