The Tennessee state flag is presented during the “Salute to the Nation” ceremony held as part of the annual open-post Independence Day celebration June 29 on Camp Zama.
The Tennessee state flag is presented during the “Salute to the Nation” ceremony held as part of the annual open-post Independence Day celebration June 29 on Camp Zama.

Camp Zama celebrates Independence Day with ‘Salute to Nation’ ceremony

by Noriko Kudo
US Army Garrison - Japan

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 3, 2019) – The weather was not looking ideal for the outdoor ceremony that had been planned for months and was about to be presented to an audience of more than 9,000 people.

Then, the rain, which had been falling intermittently throughout the day, stopped.

And so, Camp Zama’s “Salute to the Nation” ceremony, the centerpiece of the installation’s annual open-post Independence Day celebration held June 29, took place under clear skies.

Soldiers from Camp Zama, as well as airmen, sailors and Marines, all participated together in the ceremony, which included a historic recitation, followed by a presentation of each of the 50 state and six U.S. territory flags.

Master Sgt. Eulalio Unzueta, the G3 sergeant major for U.S. Army Japan, who helped plan the ceremony, said he wanted to do something unique for this year’s celebration.

“We wanted everybody in the community … to know what the 4th of July really means,” said Unzueta.

Planning the ceremony meant finding 56 service members to carry and present the flags, as well as the color guard for the performance of the Japan and U.S. national anthems.

Some of the participating service members had never so much as held a guidon flag in their young careers, so Unzueta said it was crucial that he and his fellow senior noncommissioned officers worked closely with them to “show them what right looks like.”

The hope was that the audience would see the servicemen and -women from different branches working together for a common goal, Unzueta said.

The extensive rehearsals paid off in the end, with Unzueta saying he was very happy with how the ceremony turned out.

“It was nice to see all the services come together,” said Unzueta. “I think it displays a better picture for the community.”

Michiko Suga, an attendee who said this was her first time visiting a U.S. military installation, said, “The ceremony was very awesome and I enjoyed watching it.”

“I didn’t know that each U.S. state had its own flag until I saw them in today’s ceremony,” said Suga. “I learned something new today.”

Airman Dominic Giannascoli, a standby flag bearer, said the extensive rehearsal process was definitely challenging, but the discipline of the instructors allowed the entire performance to come together in the end.

It was a great example of all the branches of the military functioning as one unit, he said.

“At the end of the day, we are all serving the same flag,” said Giannascoli. “We all respect one another, no matter which service we are in.”

Marine Pfc. Thomas Pytrysson, assigned to the Combined Arms Training Center at Camp Fuji, Japan, carried the Vermont flag during the ceremony.

He said he appreciated the fact that not just U.S. service members and their families were able to enjoy the ceremony, but Japanese community members as well.

“This ceremony helped to show the great bond the military has [among] each branch, and with the local community,” Pytrysson said.

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