ANZAC Georgetown University
Pentagon, Hall of Heros Speech
The Big Picture
St Paul's Opening Address
|Gary Schofield - The Unveiling of the New Pentagon Full Honors Ceremony Painting
Secretary Perry and distinguished quests, it is a great honor for me to be here today.
Because there was so much work in this painting, I had plenty of time to consider what I was really painting, and I realized I was also painting centuries of military traditions and ideals. Thousand of years ago, troops would form for battle in these lines. The king, or leader would be there with his personal banner, held by his flag bearer, later ensign, (later still ensign would become a naval rank) and most of his forces would have a shield in their left hand and a weapon in their right. Which meant that, as King, you really had to trust the person you placed on your right because the right side was your vulnerable side, your unshielded side. From this idea the right has become the place of honor, and that is why you see in the painting the United States’ Stars and Strips to the right of all the other flags in the Color Guard, because it is occupying the position of Honor.
A few Centuries pass and we find, in the Roman period, that these formations, or cohorts are becoming much more structured. You could always tell where you should be by your set distance from the standard, so in the chaos and confusion of battle you could always rally to that standard.
Behind the cohorts were the last line of defense for the Roman army, the Triarii, the spear bearers, and, in a 2,000 year parallel, taking the same position in the Ceremony are the Flag Bearers of the United States States and Territories. There are 56 flags. (I am sure of this because I painted every curl and flutter of them.)
In front of the Cohorts, in Roman times, were the Velites and these were like very well trained skirmishers. Taking their position today, we see in the painting the Commanders of each of the Honor Guards. They are, (looking towards Washington): the Army, the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard.
By the end of the feudal period, the King was becoming so powerful that he could maintain his own standing army. This, together with the flourishing of commerce, meant that Nobles and Landed Gentry could raise forces for the King and present him with a bill for their maintenance. Of course one of the first things the King is going to say when he receives his bill for 1,000 troops is...“I have a bill here for 1,000 bowmen. I would like to see them!” The king did not want to see 750 or 860 he wanted to see his 1,000 bowmen, and so the Military Parade became established as a form of accountability.
All great leaders, including our current Secretary of Defense, are always looking for innovative tactics, strategies and formations. Frederick the Great had a sergeant (which incidentally is a very old rank) placed behind each regiment. Each sergeant would have a halberd, which was a long pike with an ax on the end and, as the front lines engaged, the sergeants would link halberds to stop the back lines of troops from running away! You can still see the sergeants in that position in the ceremony today although, of course, their function has changed.
This brings us to colonial times and to the right in the painting you see the Colonial Fife and Drum Corps with uniforms dating from the Revolutionary War. The fife, with a very high pitch, and the drum, with a very low pitch, meant those sounds would travel further, and sound communication had been vital on the battlefield for centuries. The importance of music and morale, however, is timeless and so I have painted the Fife and Drum Corps and the Army band. It is found in the front left of the painting.
Towards the Potomac, you see 4 artillery pieces, 3 of which have fired. It used to be that to honor the President on the field one gun would fire for each State. This was fine in the 18th Century when there were 13 States, but 13 became 15 and then 20, 25, and moving upwards, and so in 1841 it was decided that 21 guns would be an appropriate Presidential Salute.
We are all shaped by the past but this Ceremony means even more than that. It represents the dignity, honor and pride in serving one’s Country, and in my case one’s adopted Country. I also tried to make the painting very beautiful with the lighting and detail showing each distinct individual and I hope the painting will evoke that spirit of honor in all those who will see it.
In conclusion, I will tell you a story that happened as I was working on the painting: Captain Schott gave me a call and said that a delegation would be arriving at my studio to see how everything was going. “This could be a good thing.” I thought, because, even though I knew they were coming to check up on me, that first moment when you see a painting for the first time is very important. Everyone has their own preconception of how the painting will look and it never looks like that, so I could control that moment. I could have the lighting perfect, keep them at the best distance from the painting, create a relaxed atmosphere...
The phone rang the next day with military precision, an hour early, and I rushed out of a cold shower to answer it. You see there had been some trouble with the heating system and the studio, which is also part of our home, was freezing cold. What is worse, they where on a cellular phone and wanted me to direct them to the door. So there would be no preparation time. My phone was secured to the wall so I stretched to the fireplace to light the fire and heat the room. (I did not want them to think I really did live in a garret.) Now, I did not realize the fault with the heating system lay in the chimney flu and the workmen had sealed it off! Smoke billowed into the room as I rushed, with one leg in my trousers, to the fire alarm before it could sound.
With the few moments remaining I turned on as many electrical heaters as I could find but just as the delegation entered the door, every single light and fuse blew.!
I could not believe it! This painting was first displayed in a bitterly cold studio, in the dark, and behind a haze of smoke.
I would like to thank Secretary Perry very much and Captain Schott whose drive, enthusiasm and leadership qualities are a marvel to me.