Beneath the pristine blue skies of summer, USMC Sergeant Major (ret.) E. L. Mayfield along with military personnel, veterans, and supporters made the annual pilgrimage from North Carolina to various war memorials throughout Washington, D.C. He was flanked by the same Marines that joined him in the freezing rain and sleet of last year’s tribute — Staff Sergeant Ramon Vega and Sergeant Humberto Lopez — throughout sites where they honored the fallen military servicemen and servicewomen, active duty personnel, veterans, their families and supporters, and first-responders.
This time, they swapped the ice and slush for the heat and sweat of the D.C. summer. But the challenges the weather presents neither deterred nor dwindled their ceremonial tributes and honor for those who serve. On June 18, 2016, the SgtMaj and members of the Military Outreach Judo & Ju Jitsu Organization, Inc. (MOJJJO, Inc.) paid honorable tribute in full USMC regalia. At each of their three stops — Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and United States Marine Corps War Memorial — they performed a sacred Ceremony of the Ashes.
Wreath-laying & Ceremony of the Ashes
During the Washington, D.C. portion of their journey, the day begins with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. A moment of silence, the mournful wail of “Taps,” and dignified salutes honor all those who sacrificed for the freedoms enjoyed by the living.
For the Ceremony of the Ashes, a ceremonial processional march is performed to their destination with an urn containing consecrated ashes. The ashes were once pieces of papers bearing the names of military service members, intentions, and hopes. At each stop, a portion of those ashes are scattered to the wind after a brief, meditative pause. The ceremony ends with a salute and recessional. Even with the sun beating-down upon them and sweat streaming from their faces, their discipline and reverence was just as unshaken as last year.
MOJJJO is a non-profit organization based out of Jacksonville, NC that serves the military and civilian communities to facilitate mutual welfare and maximum reward for effort via the Japanese martial art of Judo. MOJJJO also helps combat veterans battle the effects of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD) — a “hidden wound” — through martial arts training. SgtMaj (ret.) Mayfield is a Vietnam veteran who has an intimate understanding of the effects close-quarters combat has on soldiers as well as the effectiveness of judo to preserve one’s life when in extreme danger, “It works.”
Judo isn’t just about effective combat and self-defense techniques, but it is really about self-cultivation through the discipline and community of the martial art. Through judo training, the practitioner quickly realizes that he/she must be in control of themselves before being effective. This along with the partner-centric training — you can’t really do Judo without a willing partner — instills a sense of mutual benefit. PTSD is a condition where the sufferer feels a loss of control and often times feels isolated. Judo is a direct contradiction to those problems and why it is at the core of MOJJJO.