At the project site, I was impressed with the work that had been done. Just over a mile of wall had been erected in order to safeguard American Forces, and three other buildings, large enough to support major operations, were all but complete.
Upon completing the site visit we went came back to the vehicles. Although our trip was not long, I was eager to get back home and finish the day. The return would have been as peaceful as the departure were it not for the threat warning over the radio. IEDs were in our area and large enough to do serious damage to even our well armored vehicles. Though the possibility of real danger was slim, the atmosphere in the truck acquired a level of tension that I had yet to experience out here. Fortunately, the possibility passed quickly as a following report put the threat several hundred miles away. Still, the truck stayed quiet for the remainder of our trip.
The end of day meeting was mercifully short, in deference to the inaugural ceremony that began at 7:30 p.m. I am fortunate enough to have a TV in my office, so I retired there to watch in peace. It is an amazing and powerful thing to watch history in the making. And in this case the anticipation was almost more powerful than the event itself, perhaps because of the uncertain future that lies ahead of us. But still it was a moment to behold: the elevation of an African-American to the nation's highest office. I could not help but be moved to tears at the knowledge of how far we had come and the cost we have paid to get here.
To mark the occasion, I followed protocol for such an event. During a ceremony when a soldier is promoted to a position of greater rank and authority, all present stand at attention in recognition of the significance of the event and the pride we have in our values and traditions. And so I stood to witness this defining moment in our nation's history even as my happiness was tempered by the knowledge of the challenges that lie ahead of us.