The Harrisburg Post 472 Color Guard of Houston is no stranger at all to performing on the American Legion national convention's stage. And they're good at it.
Post 472 has won multiple class titles for mulitple years running, and has stood as the National Commander's Color Guard "since 2009," as member Daniel J. Rodriguez puts it. But the 2013 Color Guard Contest, held Friday evening at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, was very special for the group: it was the first time they were able to bring their winning ways to their hometown. Such success doesn't come easy.
"It takes a lot of dedication," said Daniel Rodriguez. "We do our best to represent our state and our city."
And this time, their city was able to represent them back. "(Being in Houston) gives our family and friends a chance to see our hard work," said Ben Saenz. "We start practice in January and do it twice a week."
Cost and distance have been factors in the past, but obviously not this time. And if the presence of a "cheering section" brought more pressure, Post 472 didn't show it, repeating their titles again before a crowd - down from last year's competition in Indianapolis, as was the competition roster - that included around 30 Harrisburg fans who hooted and applauded loudly after almost every maneuver.
They again won the Military Open Class with a score of 95.60, followed by Post 291 of Newport Beach, Calif., with a score of 89.85. George Whiteman Memorial Post 642 of Sedalia, Mo., was the sole competitor in the Military Class and received a score of 88.95. Post 472 also repeated in the Advancing/Retrieving Colors division, with a score of 91.4, and as the National Commander's Color Guard. Second place went to Detachment SAL, Scranton Quaille of Hughson, Calif., with a score of 85.0, followed by Dorie Miller Memorial Post 331 of Orlando with a score of 81.0, and Post 642 with a score of 78.6.
National Commander Jim Koutz was on hand to present the awards, as well as SAL National Commander Chris Huntzinger and members of the National Convention Commission. Koutz thanked all the participants, especially the first-timers.
"It takes a lot of work, and you understand that," he said.