In the first few hours of his presidency, Donald Trump stood and watched the parade in his honor, at one point saluting Clayton High School graduate Patrick McIver as he marched past.
McIver marched in the president’s inaugural parade as part of the Citadel’s Summerall Guards, a 61-member drill team founded 85 years ago at the South Carolina military college. The Summerall Guards followed the Citadel’s Pipe Band along the parade’s two-mile route from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. Waiting for them at the end was the new president.
“It was a great experience, something I don’t think I’ll ever get to do again,” McIver said. “When we walked to the viewing area, everybody looks left and there’s the president saluting, and I looked him in the eye. That was pretty awesome.”
McIver said the trip up Interstate 95 was his first to Washington, D.C., though he didn’t much time for sightseeing. The group visited Arlington National Cemetery, and on the day of the inauguration, they walked the streets along the parade route. That walk offered McIver and the other cadets a glimpse into the range of emotions Americans felt about their new president.
“We saw a mixture of people screaming for joy and a mixture of protests,” McIver said. “There was kind of a smaller crowd along the route because of the riots and stuff forcing people to leave. Once we got to the view stand, it was nice to see the amount of people. And there were a lot of bright lights.”
The Summerall Guards carry rifles and typically perform a drill routine where that rifle moves from hand to hand and shoulder to shoulder. The inauguration called for a more subdued performance, McIver said, with the Guards instructed not to make any sudden movements with the rifles.
While they saw both anger and glee on the faces of those gathered for the inauguration, McIver said the day was historic, not political for the cadets.
“The whole inauguration, it’s a historic event, the changing over of command from one person to another person,” McIver said. “None of us really saw it as political for us; it was just a huge historic moment. It really hit home for us when we got to walk around and see how many people came together to see the inauguration.”
McIver attended elementary, middle and high school in Clayton, graduating from Clayton High in 2013. He will graduate from the Citadel in May with a degree in criminal justice and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
McIver said he was looking for something more in his college experience, and that’s what led him to the military school.
“I wanted to have a challenge,” he said.