YORKTOWN, Va (NNS) -- Yorktown Day is a day of celebration and commemoration you won't find on any calendar or school schedule. It's rarely talked about outside of the state of Virginia, but to the people of Yorktown, it's Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one.
Every Oct. 19, with much pomp and circumstance, the citizens of Yorktown, Va., celebrate the day that the United States of America was victorious over Britain in 1781.
The Continental Army, under the command of General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, defeated Lord Cornwallis and the British Army at the Battle of Yorktown. Pinned against the sea and a blockade by the French Navy, Cornwallis surrendered, thus setting the stage for the beginning of our great nation.
Marching down historic Main Street, the United States Navy Fleet Forces Band led a parade of military marching units, patriotic organizations and local high school ROTC programs. The parade ended with the Old Guard, the U.S. Army's ceremonial marching unit from Washington, D.C., performing for the honored guests with fife and drums.
"Yorktown Day carries a special meaning, not only to the community but the nation," said Captain Paul Haebler, commanding officer, Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown. "We are honored to be part of this annual event."
Yorktown Day draws in dignitaries from across Virginia, the United States, and even from across the ocean. Both military and civilian personnel from France made the annual journey to remember the sacrifice of both French and American patriots, united against oppression and the common bond that our two nations still share today.
The day began with wreath laying ceremonies at the French cemetery and the French Memorial, on the Yorktown Battlefield, and at the grave of Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown. These ceremonies led up to the parade, which ended at the Yorktown Victory Monument.
Construction on the monument was authorized in 1781, just 10 days after the victory at Yorktown, but didn't begin until 1881, and was completed in 1884. It stands as a symbol of the great victory at Yorktown, but also the sacrifice many made in securing that victory.
"I wanted to express my thanks and congratulations on a wonderful event: Yorktown Day 2015," said Kym Hall, superintendent, Colonial National Historical Park. "The event was handled by a highly talented group of employees with a commitment to demonstrating the very best of Colonial National Historical Park to the public, our partners and neighbors. I know this was many months and hard weeks in the making, and I want you to know it didn't go unnoticed. I'm so impressed with how fabulous everything and everyone looked and how well the National Park Service was represented. I appreciate that very much."
Yorktown Day commemorated the victory at Yorktown, but it also honored the men who believed in this new nation called America. That's why the Armed Forces lead the parade and the celebration every Oct. 19th.
For more news from Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/nwsyorktown/.