Aiken Festival showcases Depot Band
By Cpl. Eric Lucero
| | July 03, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- --
The Depot Band traveled to Aiken, S.C., to take part in the Hopeland Gardens Summer Concert Series to kick off the city's 4th of July festivities Tuesday.
The evening performance in Aiken marks the 30th consecutive year the Parris Island Marine Band has made the trip, dating back to the concert series' conception in 1972, said Cathie Lindler, recreation programs director for the concert series.
"Getting the Parris Island Band has sort of become a mainstay for us," she said. "We started bugging them back in February just to make sure they would come."
The concert series, which lasts from the first Monday in May until the last Monday in August with a concert every Monday in between, makes it a point to welcome a wide variety of bands to entertain the town's citizens, said Cecelia Reynolds, program chairman for the concert series.
"We always try to schedule the Marine band closest to the 4th of July," said Reynolds. "It helps our celebration of our nation's birthday make the holiday that much more special."
"It really means a lot to the crowd to have the Marines here," added Lindler. "Especially the former Marines in the area. They live for this concert every year."
The crowd, more than 1,600 spectators, had its fair share of veterans from all four branches of the Armed Forces, including a handful of Coast Guard veterans, a fact that CWO-2 Robert A. Szabo, made sure not to let go unnoticed.
Near the end of the concert, Szabo and the band played an Armed Forces medley, paying tribute to each branch of the military by requesting the veterans that served each branch stand and be recognized by the crowd for their contributions to the nation during each individual's service song.
Also played were "Liberty Fanfare," "Bugler's Holiday" and "Hero for Today" with a stirring rendition of "Proud to Be an American" to close out the concert. The song brought the crowd to their feet well into the first verse and kept them there until its ending.
Midway through the concert Szabo interrupted the concert to recognize three very special sets of spectators in the crowd.
Sergeant Rolando Vera, bassoonist, welcomed his family, which traveled all the way from Laredo, Texas, for the concert.
The concert marked the first time in his three-year Marine career that Vera's parents have heard him perform.
"It was great," said Vera's mother, Marcela Vera as she beamed. "It made us cry," added his sister, Ani Vera.
"Well worth the trip," the rest of the family chimed.
Also on hand were the family members of Cpl. Matthew Hill, and Cpl. Joshua Calloway. Hill's family traveled all the way from St. Louis, while Calloway's family made the trip from Lexington, S.C.
Recognizing the family members during the concert was Szabo's way of acknowledging the hard work and sacrifice each family has endured to help the Marine get to where he is today.
"I need to acknowledge the families," Szabo said. "They're such a huge part of why [the band members] are here and why they're such great Marines."
Szabo and the Band left Aiken feeling confident in a job well done as many of the crowd's spectators made it a point to stay behind to thank the Marines and offer kind words as the band members packed their gear away.
"They were wonderful," said Rosemary Buchanan, an Aiken citizen. "The quality of music was outstanding.
"They were almost as good as the community band," she said sarcastically as she smiled at her husband, David, a trumpet player for the Aiken Community Band.
With both the crowd and the band parting ways satisfied with yet another year under their belts, thoughts of next year's performance were already brewing.
"I would love to come back as long as they'll keep having us," said Szabo.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," said Lindler smiling.