Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Armed Forces on Parade

Every concert given by the Sea Chanters concludes with, as we call it, "Armed Forces on Parade." This medley of all the service songs is our way to honor the sacrifices made by veterans, active service men and women and their families.

Last night, our concert was at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg, Pa. It is a gorgeous venue with a stunning marble staircase and elegant mirrored walls. Our audience was every bit as enchanting as the theater itself - full of cheerful smiles and kind words upon their departure. We were honored that the commanding officer of the Navy Band, Capt. Brian Walden, was also in attendance tonight!

As I mentioned - we close our concerts by singing all five service songs. Every Sea Chanter feels a great deal of pride singing these songs. We see our audience members clasp hands in surprise and joy, realizing for the first time that their neighbor was a fellow Airman, or that their Sunday school teacher defended America as a Marine. If we are lucky enough to be performing for our own families, seeing them stand for "Anchors Aweigh" is an emotionally overwhelming moment. And each night, as we sing these songs, we look out at all the veterans and their own families, and we wonder.

We wonder where they served and what they did. Were they officers or enlisted men and women? Did they retire after a long career or serve for a short time? Did they serve during wartime; did they see combat? Were they ever injured; did they perhaps save a life? Did they make lifelong friendships? Did they argue with a superior and get thrown in the brig? Were they there for the births of their children? My own two grandfathers served in the Army and the Air Force. I wonder if these veterans ever knew my grandfathers, who would be too humble to tell me stories of their own heroism.

When I sing the service songs, I also think about my own shipmates in the Sea Chanters. Never have I come across a more caring group of people. Each day we look for ways to serve each other while we serve our country, and I often think about how lucky I am to be a part of this family. Like every unit in the U.S. military, we rally behind each other in support through the hard times, and happily celebrate the good times together.

Our concert in Greensburg last night was unique in that so many of our veterans came in their service uniforms. These veterans looked as sharp in their perfectly pressed uniforms as ever, and their beaming faces left no doubt that they served proudly and honorably. We are truly grateful for the gifts the veterans and their families have given our nation, and we are proud to be counted among those who have served.

Musician 1st Class Casey Elliott is the associate musical director of the Sea Chanters.

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