On the morning of January 21, while the first family of the United States was hurried from place to place in preparation for their second inaugural address, Kjersten Bratvold sat in the orange seats of Jones 212 listening to an anatomy lecture about metabolism and energetics.
Bratvold, a sophomore at Concordia, was only half listening, though. The only laptop running in the lecture hall was sitting in the empty neighboring chair. She turned it to face her, staying tuned into ABC’s live streaming of the Inauguration Ceremony, specifically looking for the honor guard of the U.S. Army.
As the Concordia community braved the below zero temperatures in Moorhead, three members of the campus were connected to the warmer atmosphere in Washington, D.C.: Kjersten Bravold, Anthony Iverson and René Clausen.
Bratvold’s boyfriend of three years, Pvt. Matthew Schaffran, is a member of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard—a specialty unit of the army whose duty is to participate in special ceremonies and events, such as the inauguration or funerals of fallen soldiers. He is stationed at Fort Myer, Va., at Arlington Cemetery.
“I don’t get to see him in uniform much,” she said. “I really wanted to see him like that.”
However, Bratvold had to wait a while to see Pvt. Schaffran. As the president and other guests made their way to the front of the U.S. Capitol for the inaugural address, Pvt. Schaffran was located inside the crypt, or hallway, directly behind where President Obama spoke, Beyonce sang and the Lee University Festival Choir delivered a stunning performance.
Pvt. Schaffran’s company, the honor guard, lined the hallways of the crypt. He told Bratvold that this was the most stressful part of the day because they had to maintain an intense level of concentration on their role.
“I was looking really hard for him (inside the crypt), but he was further inside so I wasn’t able to see him,” Bratvold said.
As Pvt. Schaffran stood just a short distance inside the crypt, he could hear the ceremony proceeding outside.
One of the performances of the ceremony was by the Lee University Festival Choir out of Tennessee. They performed a piece entitled, “All that Hath Life and Breath Praise Ye the Lord,” written by Concordia Choir director René Clausen.
Clausen had no idea the choir would be performing his piece—he did not find out until after the ceremony, when a colleague saw it on Twitter.
“I was surprised, honored, grateful,” Clausen said.
When he wrote the piece, he focused on what would take advantage of the strengths of the choir he was directing at the time. Clausen said this is one of his most popular pieces and is many times used as an exciting opener as it is more of a fanfare and up-tempo.
From the ceremony, the president and vice president, accompanied by their wives, made their way to the back of the capitol to review the troops. It was here that Bratvold paused the live stream and took a picture of the screen with her phone. Three steps from the bottom, Pvt. Schaffran stood as a part of the military cordon formation. The five branches lined the capitol steps as the four descended the staircase to review and honor the troops at the bottom of the white Capitol steps.
Following the ceremonial proceedings, the Obamas and Bidens attended the inaugural luncheon. While the day is planned down to the minute, there is always a chance that things will not go according to plan.
And they didn’t.
Concordia senior, Anthony Iverson, experienced the delay as he and 127 band members waited for the luncheon plates to be cleared so the inaugural parade could begin. Iverson, who was also a part of the parade four years ago when he performed with the Fergus Falls high school band, said this year the parade was only delayed an hour instead of three hours like last time. He had the opportunity to accompany the band again this year, because he serves as the drumline director for the marching band.
“We had to wait outside, but it was a lot colder (four years ago)—more like ten to fifteen degrees,” said Iverson. “It was closer to thirty degrees this time.”
Unlike Bratvold, who was up only to get to class on time, Iverson and the rest of the band awoke at five in the morning, boarded their three coach buses, and headed to the Pentagon to get through security in time for the parade.
Upon their arrival at the Pentagon, the students exited the buses and headed towards the security lines. Although the security process is a serious matter, Iverson said the atmosphere was not as somber as he imagined it would be—most likely because they were there for celebratory reasons.
After both the students and buses were cleared, they were reunited and redirected to the beginning of the parade route.And then the waiting began.
“We were outside waiting and standing around,” Iverson said. “It gets frustrating, but it is what we are there for.”
Once the parade began, the process went quickly. The band, whose traditional focus is on precision, marched through military personnel for a mile and a half. Iverson said they turned the corner onto where the reviewing stand was located and all of a sudden they saw a huge blinding spotlight shining down onto the street. Since the sun was beginning to go down for the day by the time they arrived at the reviewing stand, the light allowed the first family to see each pass by.
As Iverson passed the reviewing stand where the Obamas were located, he remembers them being no more than 15 feet away inside a bulletproof container.
Iverson and the Fergus Falls marching band were one of only 100 units selected to be a part of the parade. They were only notified a month ago, which Iverson said meant a lot of scrambling had to happen, but it was all part of the experience.
Pvt. Schaffran, while also under pressure to perform as expected, was not able to reflect upon the day until after his duties were done. As he was processing the day, he realized what a cool opportunity he had just had.
And Bratvold could not have been more proud.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him,” she said with a smile.