Trey Grissom thought his days of close-order marching and sword carrying were over after his first year at the U.S. Naval Academy. But on Jan. 20, the U.S. Marine Corps captain will lead his platoon as part of the presidential escort for the 58th presidential inauguration.
Grissom’s platoon is expected to march past the reviewing stand to salute new U.S. President Donald Trump and later join other units on the march down Pennsylvania Avenue, from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. Grissom’s element, and elements of the other services, will lead the motorcade while other units will follow the vehicles.
“This is completely unbelievable,” Grissom said last week as he reviewed logistics, including a 2 a.m. rehearsal and a three-hour security check. “A chance to be a part of history is something that I never imagined.
“We only do this once every four to eight years. I know I’m lucky to be in the position. This is undoubtedly the coolest thing that I’ve ever had the opportunity to do in the service.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Grissom was a football star at Garner High School, and after he graduated in 2007, he accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy. He was a standout linebacker for the Middies while being trained as an infantry officer.
He has deployed to Afghanistan, South Korea and Okinawa, Japan.
He currently is assigned to the Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. The storied post was founded in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the second commandant of the Marine Corps.
The Barracks supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation’s capital and is the home of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Band, the official Marine Corps Color Guard and the Marine Corps Body Bearers.
The inauguration is a first for Grissom, but he is well versed in the ceremonial duties of his command. He recently took part in various ceremonies for outgoing defense department personnel.
And on every Tuesday and Friday in the summer, the band, the drum and bugle corps, the drill team and the ceremonial marchers performed at either the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery or at the Marines Barracks before thousands of spectators.
Grissom’s most meaningful duties, though, are much more solemn. His platoon takes part in the funerals of Marines at Arlington.
“It is the most rewarding thing that I have done,” Grissom said. “To be able to show that last moment of respect to a fallen Marine is an overwhelming honor.”
The weather was bad recently for a couple of funerals. He and the escort were outdoors for more than six hours.
“It was 24 degrees, the wind was gusting to 30 miles an hour. It was blowing so hard that it was difficult to just stand still,” Grissom said. “It was frigid, but it was an honor to be there. The families knew that we were there for them, even in difficult circumstances.
“I could hear them crying, sobbing. It can get to you, but you maintain your focus and your composure.”
The body is brought to the burial site in a caisson by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, which is known as the Old Guard. It is the same U.S. Army group that guards the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.
The Marines’ Body Bearers take the casket and follow Grissom’s escort to the grave.
After the body is placed in the grave, the U.S. Flag that had draped the casket is folded and is presented to the family. Grissom then speaks to the family if the deceased was of equal or lower rank.
“There is nothing you can say, but just being there says a lot,” Grissom said. “They know their Marine is not forgotten. I express our nation’s appreciation of their Marine’s service and offer my condolences. I do that, but you say it different ways depending on the circumstances.”
The Body Bearers say that on the worst day of the loved ones’ lives, the best gift the Corps can give is a perfect funeral. That is Grissom’s mission on many days.
But on inauguration day, his mission is represent the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It is a great honor,” he said.