Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The few, the proud...
We wait, instruments in hand, young and old together. Gray pants and red polos intermixed with sharp crossbelts and plumed hats. Even though it's Saturday night, even though the football game just ended a couple hours ago, we are here. Suddenly a buzz runs through the crowd and our director starts to wave his baton. They're here! They're coming!
Everyone starts peering toward the escalators trying to catch a glimpse as we start to play. "Caissons", "Anchors Away", "Marine Hymn", "Air Force March", "Semper Paratus". I can barely see over the crowd but every few minutes I spot a wheelchair or a gray head proudly wearing a service branch hat. "Military Medley, again," our director shouts and off we go some more! "Caissons", "Anchors Away", "Marine Hymn", "Air Force March", "Semper Paratus". A few times I'm lucky enough to catch a giant smile and eyes lit up with joy as a wheelchair or some unsteady legs with a cane come down the escalator to their first glimpse of us. Mostly it's a blur of "Military Medley, again!" or occasionally "Navy Hymn!" "Stars and Stripes!" Even a few "Sloopy!"s. A small gap. Then... "one more vet!" Our director cranes his neck toward the escalator, looking for a clue to the service branch... "Air Force!"
A lady gets on the loudspeaker and asks for a moment of silence. The bagpipers quietly start the moving strains of "Amazing Grace". We all sing "God Bless America" and then...
Tap, tap, tap. We form up to march out: first the young, the "real" band. We alumni fall in step behind them and together we snake through the crowd, yelling along to the familiar cadences we share. Now we can really see everyone. Volunteers and families and vets with grateful eyes reach out to us and say "Thank you!" "Thanks so much for being here," "It means so much!" as we march by. I think of my two Marine grandfathers and straighten my back with pride as I pass. I just wish they could have been able to experience this.
This is a returning Honor Flight, a new addition to the long list of gigs we play at, and my new favorite for sure. As members of a band with military roots and as regular American citizens, we are proud to be a part of saying "Thank you" to those who so deserve it.