V.I. National Guard band leads July 4 parade in D.C.
Published: July 6, 2012
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Flags waved from outstretched arms as the applause of tens of thousands spectators filled the air while Virgin Islanders led the nation's Independence Day parade down Constitution Avenue in Washington.
The 73rd Army Band from the U.S. Virgin Islands joined the 257th Army Band from the District of Columbia National Guard to serve as the lead element for the 236th anniversary of the United States' Fourth of July celebration.
It was the first time in history that a V.I. National Guard band participated in the Nation's Independence Day parade.
Setting the pace for the parade in the 97-degree heat was V.I. National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Monet Davis, who served as drum major for the combined band, and her baton rhythmically set the cadence for the march as she led them down the avenue. Davis, the acting 1st sergeant for the 73rd Army Band, knows of the historic impact of the day.
"To have most of my unit in the parade and in the band - and for me to be the drum major and Chief Warrant Officer Juan Harrigan to be the commander of that band - it spoke volumes to me," Davis said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime event."
That Virgin Islanders played lead roles as the unit as drum major and commander makes it even more significant, she said.
"I was scared and excited at the same time," Davis said of her historic involvement. "This was really significant for us."
Davis shared the unique experience with special friends.
"I made sure that retired Master Sgt. Wilbur Hendricks was able to march, because he was my 1st sergeant when he was active," Davis said.
Other members of the V.I. contingent appreciated the significance of the day.
"It was an amazing feeling to be a part of the Nation's Independence Day Parade," Staff Sgt. Lurlene Gerard said. "To see my commander and first sergeant lead the parade was simply magnificent."
Gerard, a squad leader and clarinet player in the V.I. National Guard band, said it definitely was a memorable day.
"The amount of people that cheered and showed their appreciation for what we do will be forever etched in my mind," Gerard sad. "Knowing that my service and commitment to this country is appreciated makes me feel honored to serve in our military."
The combined band moved with precision and blared clear and concise movement down the historic parade route all with the Washington Monument towering in the background.
"This has been an amazing experience," said Staff Sgt. Kevré Hendricks. "Two excellent military bands joined together plus the drum major and commander both being from the Virgin Islands - historic."
The 73rd Army Band's day did not end with the conclusion of the parade. The band packed up and shuttled off to Reston, Va., where they wowed the crowd with performances from a combined concert band with the 257th Army Band and other musical performance teams, such as the 257th's Tactical Sax saxophone quartet and the Brigadier Brass Ensemble and the 73rd's Steel Drum and Calypso Ensembles.
The 73rd Army Band will continue its tour in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas with performances tonight at Calvert Marine Museum on Solomon's Island, Md., and Saturday night at the National Harbor in Maryland.
For more information about the 73rd Army Band, call Sgt. Athneil Thomas at 643-8168.