TROY, N.Y. (June 16, 2011) --
In a dimly lit concert hall in Troy, N.Y., nearly 800 people came together to honor the American flag with music from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band. The lights in the concert hall had been turned off, leaving one solitary spotlight shining on the American flag carried by a United States Air Force color guard.
Gunnery Sgt. Victor D. Miranda, the drum major for the band, led a slow and somber Pledge of Allegiance. Compelled by the scene and the serious tune struck by the band, the crowd of mostly military veterans was compelled to stand and place their hands over their hearts, many wiping away tears from their eyes.
Troy, N.Y., the birthplace of Uncle Sam, according to legend, hosted the 2nd MAW Band to perform in concert at their 32nd annual Flag Day celebration and parade June 11–12.
The band tried to convey the symbolism and meaning of the American flag to the crowds by playing patriotic music such as “The Gallant 7th March,” “American Pageant,” “United Through it All,” “American Salute,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Semper Fidelis,” “the Pledge of Allegiance” and “Taps.”
“The American flag means to me, literally everything,” said Cpl. David P. Shearin, a percussionist in the band. “Tradition, family, anything to do with the military or the Marine Corps, it’s the foundation that keeps everything that we know and do in place. It’s basically that model that shows who we are as Americans. It represents our national identity. Semper Fidelis.”
Thousands of people lined the parade route cheering the band, the Troy detachment of the Marine Corps League and the Air Force color guard as they marched past. American flags fluttered in the breeze and children waved them about. For many veterans, the flag is a symbol of what they had fought and their friends had died for.
“As a Marine, the flag means everything to me,” said Gerard LaBarge, the commandant of the Troy Marine Corps League Detachment. “It’s a symbol of our great country. The public should have more respect for the American flag. Ever since 9/11, it’s been up and down. At first, everybody flew an American flag and now it’s diminished and I don’t think that should be. I think they should fly it every day, 9/11 or not, Memorial Day or not, they should fly it every day.”
The band plays at numerous patriotic events locally and across the East Coast every year. Each event that they perform at carries the same weight as the one before. Through their performance, they support and honor America.
“We’re involved for the morale of our Marines, for recruiting and also for community relations events to support patriotism,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert A. Szabo, the officer in charge of the band. “For events like Flag Day, the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day, it’s very important to get within the community. We support many veterans that have done so much before us to protect our freedoms. Last evening, we gathered with them and the older veterans were telling us their stories as well. We have a pretty remarkable job where we can go out and our mission is to support the veterans and the community relations and the patriotism, but we also feel stronger because of the experiences of those before us.”