President Donald Trump had promised a "great show" for his Fourth of July "Salute To America" from the Lincoln Memorial, and few could doubt that it was, bolstered by a thrilling display of air might that soared over the National Mall during his speech.
With the flair and timing he honed as a reality TV star, Trump presided over carefully choreographed and impeccably sequenced flyovers by a B-2 stealth bomber, fighters, tiltrotor aircraft and attack and rescue helicopters, all arranged to fly by in concert with his remarks honoring each service branch.
There was even an element of suspense that the president played to effect, as threatening skies and intermittent rain earlier forced the evacuation of a section at the opposite end of the Mall near the Capitol.
Speaking from behind a rain-streaked bulletproof screen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Trump charted the nation's martial history, from its refusal to bow to a "faraway king" to the battle to defeat ISIS.
Democrats had warned that Trump would turn Independence Day in the nation's capital into a political rally, but he appeared to stick closely to script, avoiding his usual asides on the border wall, tariffs or the unfairness of special counsel Robert Mueller.
The main theme was the "the greatest story ever told, the story of America," Trump said, describing a United States that is the "most exceptional nation in the history of the world."
It's an exceptionalism enabled by a military that is "stronger than it's ever been before. It is its strongest now," he told the ticketed audience that jammed the memorial grounds and stretched down the sides of the Capitol Reflecting Pool toward the Washington Monument.
Trump singled out Gold Star Families and Medal of Honor recipients among the special guests in attendance, before segueing to the much-awaited aircraft flybys.
He invited Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper to join him on stage before giving capsule histories of each service branch. Then, he paused each time as the Army Chorus began the service's hymn.
The roar would begin dimly in the background and then the warplanes would appear. For the Air Force, it was a B-2 stealth bomber with F-22 Raptor stealth fighters at each wingtip.
For the Army, it was two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. For the Coast Guard, it was HH-60 Jayhawk and HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopters. For the Marines, it was two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the new VH-92 Marine One helicopter that will transport the president. For the Navy, it was two F-35C Joint Strike Fighters and two F/A-18 Super Hornets in a diamond formation.
The grand finale came in the form of six F/A-18 jets from the Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team that soared past in V-formation as the chorus sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"We will never forget that we are America and the future belongs to us," Trump said in his closing remarks.
"The spirit of American independence will never fade, will never fail but will reign forever and ever and ever. We are one people chasing one dream and one magnificent destiny," he added. "So once more to every citizen throughout our land, have a glorious Independence day. Have a great Fourth of July."
Ever the showman, Trump had one surprise left.
One of the Blue Angels jets returned, dipping and wheeling into the night to cheers from the crowd.
"A great crowd of tremendous Patriots this evening, all the way back to the Washington Monument!" Trump said in a tweet following the ceremony.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.