Military Will Have Reduced Role in Scaled-Back DC Inauguration Events

The U.S. Navy Band marches down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The U.S. Navy Band marches down Pennsylvania Avenue during the 58th Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., January 20. 2017. (U.S. Navy/Senior Chief Musician Stephen Hassay)

The military will play a greatly diminished but still prominent role in the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee had already scaled back events that normally celebrate the peaceful transfer of power because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol added new and heavy layers of security, turning the city into a fortress against threats of violence.

Instead of a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, historically led by military bands and units from all the services, small contingents from each branch will pass in review below the West Front of the Capitol, where Biden will take the oath of office at 12:01 p.m. Wednesday, the committee said in a release Monday.

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In a break with tradition going back more than 150 years, President Donald Trump will not attend his successor's inauguration; instead, he will leave Washington for Florida after a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday.

However, Vice President Mike Pence will be at the Capitol to witness Biden and Harris take their oaths, according to his office.

After the ceremony, Biden and Harris will go to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath in honor of the fallen from all the nation's wars. They will be joined there by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton will also attend, according to the committee.

Biden and Harris will then return to 15th St. NW, where they will be escorted on the short walk to the White House by members of each service branch; the U.S. Army Band; a Joint Service Honor Guard; and the Commander-in-Chief's Guard and Fife and Drum Corps from the 3rd U.S. Infantry "The Old Guard."

The drumlines of the University of Delaware, Biden's alma mater, and Howard University, Harris' alma mater, will also be part of the escort to the White House.

The inauguration events are meant to "mark a new chapter for the American people -- one of healing, of unifying, of coming together, of an America united," Tony Allen, the committee's CEO, said in a statement. "It is time to turn the page on this era of division."

The main public event will be the virtual "Parade Across America" starting at 3:15 p.m. Eastern. It will feature performances and presentations by entertainers, Olympic athletes and groups from all 50 states and U.S. territories, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Band and the Marine Corps' Silent Drill Platoon.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which provides support to families who have lost loved ones in military service, will also take part.

Bonnie Carroll, founder and president of TAPS, told that the group has prepared a video with children and their "battle buddy" mentors from the services.

TAPS has participated in parades at several previous inaugurations. "This year, we'll be representing the families of the fallen in a nonpolitical, nonpartisan way," Carroll said. "On this day, we'll be celebrating the democracy they have secured."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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