The Marine Corps Tuesday Sunset Parade at Iwo Jima
This summer tradition in Washington for the public is free and thrilling
The first thing you hear at 7 p.m. precisely are the drums from behind the iconic Iwo Jima statue. The white Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol are in fading light in the far distance. As the beats get louder, the band in bright red uniforms marches around both sides of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.
See them start in this video:
The brass horns blow louder as the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corp march straight to the crowds sitting under the trees in Arlington, VA.
As the band gets within 10 feet of the viewing stand, the brass blows so loudly that your heart races and you can feel the drums rattle your whole body.
School groups, veterans, and patriots applaud as the Marine Corps’ “Tuesday Sunset Parade” begins. Watch here:
I went last night and go every summer. It’s one of the best traditions in Washington, D.C. If you’re in the area any Tuesday, it’s a must-attend event. It’s free, and you don’t need a reservation or ticket.
First Lt. Kayla Olsen, Director, Communication Strategy and Operations of the Washington Marine Barracks told me:
The Tuesday Sunset Parade is an opportunity for Marines to engage with the public, demonstrate the professionalism and precision of our Corps, and most importantly, pay tribute to those whose "uncommon valor was a common virtue."
Lt. Olsen said the hundreds of Marines who do the performance are “hand-selected to serve at Marine Barracks Washington.” She added, ”It is an honor to serve as a symbol of our core values of honor, courage, and commitment.”
My favorite part of the performance is the Silent Drill Platoon. See the video below. They perform ceremonial drill sequences without any verbal cadences.
They each hold an M1 Garand with a bayonet that weighs a total of 12.6 pounds. They throw the heavy rifles around like they are bamboo sticks. I’m told by the docents that the M1s are fully operational and that this is the only unit in the Corps allowed to use them.
At one point, the rifle inspector goes to one Marine and does amazing tricks by flipping the rifle between them while he inspects it. I’ve learned the inspector chooses a different Marine each time but they know it’s coming. The Silent Drill Platoon travels all over the world to perform, and it’s a thrill to watch their perfect timing of marches and complex throws and twists.
The Marine Barracks Washington has been putting on this hour-long parade for the public since the Iwo Jima statue was dedicated in 1956. According to the Marine Barracks docents I spoke with, the parade was originally done for the families and friends of the men depicted in the battle at Iwo Jima.
The Marines continue to remember their fallen each week. The memorial is for those killed in all wars, most recently the 13 killed in the Kabul Airport terrorist attack in the Afghanistan war in 2021.
The most powerful part of the parade to honor those Marines who died in the wars starts with the saluting battery service doing a “rifle volley” (instead of the 21-gun salute). Then one red-uniformed Marine with a bugle plays “Taps” while standing on top of the 32-foot statue. The public audience and Marines stand in silence —saluting or with hands on hearts.
While Iwo Jima was under renovations in 2019, the parade was held at the Lincoln Memorial. I’m told the Marine Barracks has been asked to do the parade at that location again next summer 2023.
To learn more, go to the Washington Marine Barracks website.
Have you been to the Tuesday sunset parade? Or will plan to go now? Let me know in the comments….
As I’m writing this, the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, who was awarded for his heroism at Iwo Jima, died. Marine Corps retired CWO4 Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Guam before landing in Iwo Jima where his actions earned him the Medal of Honor, according to the Marine Corps.
Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps said this today:
“As the last of America’s “Greatest Generation” to receive the Medal of Honor, we will forever carry with us the memory of his selfless dedication to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our great Nation. The Marine Corps is fortunate to have many heroes, but there is only one Woody Williams. Semper Fidelis, Marine."