June 25, 2015 –
EDITOR'S NOTE: This narrative is a true event that happened on June 25 at Wrigley Field in Chicago involving the color guard team from the 416th Theater Engineer Command.
CHICAGO - They stepped from the darkness toward the gate. The opening of Wrigley Field lay in front of them. The crowd's noise was calm as time approached the first pitch and national anthem.
The Army Reserve Soldiers stood at the gate, waiting to carry the American flag and U.S. Army colors forward. This would be their first time presenting the colors on such a historic field. They waited for their cue. Their nerves spiked as the seconds ticked before they’d present before thousands of fans.
The American flag came loose from the screw on the pole. Just one screw held everything in place, and the flag's leather loop had come off.
"The flag is off. I can't get it back on," said the team leader.
The Soldiers from the color guard team looked at each other. Everyone scrambled, reaching in their pockets, looking around for a coin or a tool that would help them fix the situation.
They were less than a minute away from walking onto the field and rendering honor to the flag and now that was about to unhinge completely at the fault of one single screw.
A fan nearby offered to help, handing the team a quarter. But the coin was too thick for the screw. No give.
They tried a plastic card or even their bare fingers. That screw wouldn’t budge.
Two of the Soldiers ran around asking strangers and Wrigley Field staff if they had a tool, a penny, anything that could save them.
They were going to look like fools in front of the entire city of Chicago.
Then, suddenly, one of them reached into his ASU jacket pocket.
Everyone in the Army knows what that is. Not a swear word, but a tiny brass clip designed to keep ribbons and medals on their dress uniform. The NCO had a few extra ones in his pocket because those clips always managed to fall off the uniform and disappear in the most inopportune moments.
He felt the edge of the damnit. It was just tiny and flat enough that it might work as a miniature screw driver.
“Here, try this,” he said, handing it to the team leader.
The first pitch had been thrown. The announcer called to the field to prepare for the national anthem.
It felt like a ticking time bomb, and the only thing that would prevent it from blowing off was this tiny little clip.
The team leader forced the screw on the pole loose.
“Is it working? Is it working?” one of them asked.
What if it wasn’t going to work? What if everything went wrong?
“How much time is left?” one of the NCOs asked.
Everyone shook their heads. There was no knowing.
The team leader forced the screw. His eyes became intense as he managed to loop the flag hoop back onto the pole.
“I think I got it,” he said.
A sigh of relief fell upon the Soldiers.
Within seconds, a voice asked, “Are you guys ready?”
It was the field manager for the Chicago Cubs.
He had no idea how close they had come to answering, “No. We can’t go on the field.”
Instead, they nodded. Yes. They were ready.
That was close. That was very close.
They marched onto the field, and as the first note of the national anthem hit the crowd, the team leader called the color guard unit to present arms. A crowd of Chicago fans stood, hands over their hearts, taking a minute to display their love for their flag and their country.