|This picture's from the 2011 tour, but I really like it!|
On each year’s tour we proudly represent the Navy’s pride and professionalism, traveling across the country to cities and towns hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. We covered over 3,000 miles this past month, playing for tens of thousands of Americans who were thrilled, amazed, and inspired by our performances. Many of us enjoy ‘meeting and greeting’ these grateful patrons before and after each concert, and this personal affirmation is both gratifying and humbling for us. We are extremely fortunate to serve our country as musicians: there are much more difficult and dangerous duties, and we remember and pay tribute to our shipmates in harms way every concert.
Although I still have 11 months left to serve, I’ll be on terminal leave at the time of next year’s trip. This is to be my last tour, so I can’t help but reminisce a little bit. Last night, my final tour concert, was obviously important to me. As I’ve begun the last year of my Navy career, every event is becoming a series of ‘lasts’, and at the concert in McHenry, Md., the emotional aspect of my service coming to a close began to hit home. It began when I arrived at the concert site and found an entry door restricted to "Karl Only," and continued with the discovery of my tuba cases covered with inflated "hands," each with a personal message, most of which cannot be repeated in a family-oriented online publication (not really, just jokes and well-wishes). But towards the end of the concert I was caught completely by surprise when our narrator, Chief Musician Courtney Williams, thanked me publicly for my nearly 26 years of service. It was a very graceful acknowledgement, and I was touched. But the audience suddenly rose to their feet and, to my astonishment, so did my colleagues! Never was a standing ovation so unexpected or deeply felt. Blinking back tears, I tried to nod my thanks to one and all, but I probably just looked like a silly bobble-head doll. Only years of dedication and training enabled me to sit down and remember how to play the next piece. Later on, we all got a good laugh when Chief Musician Yolanda Pelzer worked my name into her love song, “My Ship” and gave me a hug. But the only time I nearly lost it was the final time through “Armed Forces On Parade” when we got to the “Anchors Aweigh” part.
So those are the things I’ll remember about this year’s tour, this morning after and for the rest of my life. We are privileged to serve in the Navy, but any service member will tell you it’s the people you remember most when all is said and done. Sharing the good times, the tough times, the laughter and the tears, knowing that you were part of something special.
BZ Navy Band! Thanks for a great ride, and Full Speed Ahead! You are indeed a Global Force for Good!