(HOST) Tomorrow is the day when Americans honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans with parades and patriotic ceremonies. Commentator Kirsten Laine especially enjoys the marching bands.
(LAINE) Tomorrow morning at eleven o’clock, generations of Americans will come together on a small town green just up
from the Connecticut River. Mothers pushing strollers with
babies bundled against the chill will watch as teenagers play martial music and while loose ranks of men and a few women
walk quietly down the street. Some of the men and women
will be wearing uniforms they last wore for their original purpose half a century ago. Some will be decorated with medals. Some
will be in wheelchairs. Some will be only a few years older than the teenagers who precede them. All will be gathered there to celebrate Veteran’s Day. The teenagers, members of the Lebanon, New Hampshire, High School marching band, will accompany the soldiers’ slow march around the green.
A quick history lesson here: Veteran’s Day started out as Armistice Day, after the cessation of hostilities in what people then called the Great War, now World War I, on the eleventh
hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The holiday’s dual purpose, then as now, was to honor the citizens who fought in our country’s wars and to promote world peace.
The teenagers, wearing band uniforms of khaki pants and maroon blazers, and playing John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post” march, “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem, are the latest members of a unique American institution, one that came into being as this country was shaping its identity. Drums, fifes, and horns have accompanied armies on the march for centuries.
In America after the Civil War, marching bands broke rank and reshaped the old-world military form for an exuberant new world. Towns, and sometimes local businesses, even orphanages, supported their own bands. For a time, bands played on every Main Street, spreading the popular music and the patriotic airs
of the bold new country. Cars and radios killed off professional touring bands like John Philip Sousa’s, and then many town bands. But marching bands moved into the schools and took
on a new national purpose: building good citizens.
Lebanon’s band director, Lyndsay Rapp, continues that tradition today. She believes that learning and playing music together teaches her students self-discipline, teamwork, and leadership. She runs practices every day before school and rehearses sections every afternoon. She notices that the kids in her band classes are often on the honor roll and take other advanced classes. The Lebanon band has marched in the Veteran’s Day parade for the past four years. Rapp thinks it’s good for her students to ask themselves what it means to serve their country.
Tomorrow morning, the band, with its phalanx of flutes, its trumpet rank, its two tubas, and its booming bass drums, will march in front of the veterans. The teenagers will bring the music of an optimistic young country back to Main Street, at least for
one day. Then, in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, they’ll stop playing and join their
elders in a moment of silence, and think of peace.
I’m Kristen Laine of Orange, NH.
Kristin Laine writes about the environment, women’s issues and education.