Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Formation is at 0700. Some folks grumble. “Why do we have to get up early every year to do this” said one soldier musician. The Operations NCOIC or representative check to make sure everyone is present. “Trumpets” then he begins calling the names from highest rank to the lowest- SFC, SSG, SGT, SPC and then PFC. Someone snickers, “We still have PFCs in the band field.” Some laugh and some are annoyed. The OPPS rep lets the drum major know everyone is present and off we go.

The bus is loaded up with soldier musicians from all walks of life. Conversations begin and others sleep. I look around and my mind races. I am in uniform about to do a Memorial Day Tribute. There are people around me of varying experiences. My good friend, SSG Humble, is probably one of the more experienced soldiers in the band. He saved lives, been deployed many times and have experienced some military hardships that many soldier musicians don’t see. Then there is an 18yr old that joined the band field because he felt he had no other choice. Now that he is receiving a regular paycheck, he can afford to buy games for his gaming system. We are, as a Military Unit, on our way.

The conversations continue. No one speaks of friends who have died in combat who they knew from basic training or AIT. No one talks about friends who took their lives due to deployment related stress. SSG Humble’s friend hanged himself.

A story pops into my head. A soldier serves his country in combat but did not receive proper treatment when he returned. He murdered his wife…I know that there are tons of classes and evaluations before and after deployment but lives are still lost during and after battle. Another soldier serves country in battle/deployment and when they return their spouse is with someone else.
No one talks about the sacrifices that we all know or have experienced.

We arrive at the field. Some of us have our instruments out and others have to set up. We warm up individually. The drum major finds his position. “FALL IN” is announced and everyone gets in place. He aligns the band before we step off. We are leading the procession/parade/memorial with tons of veterans and their families behind us. Everyone else is probably getting ready to barbecue or at home thankful for the long weekend. After we are aligned, the drum major announces “PA-RADE REST.” The band moves together. We wait…

All the officials for the procession arrive. The drum major gets in place. “BAND…A-TTEN-TION” and we snap into position. “SEVEN Count Manual of Instruments” we all count in our heads as we move our instruments into place. The drum major turns around and sticks his right hand out alerting the band we have a right turn coming up. We step off play-ing a march.

We arrive to the location after doing a right turn, left and a counter march. The ceremony begins. The prayer, the politician and then there are the veterans. They talk about fallen friends. One story, a soldier dies to save his friend. He is speaking in his honor.

It is easy to tune out these functions because it becomes a routine. Some develop thick skin that blocks out what is going on. Hearing the names called and sometimes the age of fallen soldiers, marines, navy or airmen can mess with you. I guess we all develop our coping mechanisms.

Trumpet players are always called to play taps for funerals. Hearing a solo trumpet play “Taps,” while cannons fire, erupts emotions when you know the meaning. The military band, since the first battles, has been an integral part. We kept soldiers in line or announced “CHARGE” or “RETREAT.” We have dropped instruments and picked up weapons to fight in various battles. Our presence is part of the tradition and necessary in military ceremonies…

 ***

Today, I don’t wear a uniform in the Army Band, but I still think of the consciousness of the nation. Memorial Day means something different for everyone. Some stores have sales to capitalize on profits. Some folks are getting ready to barbecue. Some veterans are on bikes holding up traffic in DC. Some people are happy they don’t have to wake up early today. Some…well many families are mourning the lost of loved ones.

No one signs up for the military to die. There are varying factors – some patriotic and others, necessity. Not everyone dies but many are wounded. In 2008, I was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in the warrior transition unit. I was sick and being tested. What I saw changed my life. Hearing about the wounded soldiers is one thing but seeing is another. I saw wounded soldiers of varying degrees. Their human spirit still strong but bodies now deformed. Regardless of their trauma, they came to formation and wore the uniform with pride. Some could not wear the uniform due to injuries. Some could not walk. Some could not talk. Their stories are far more traumatic than I can imagine.

Whatever you decide to do on Memorial Day, take a moment and think about your blessings. You might not like the military or disagree with government procedures. Please realize people are dying everyday for true or false causes. Currently, someone is on guard in a remote area while you are chilling. This country, not perfect, represents concepts that allow you to dislike or like the military. This country, not perfect, allows you to formulate your own ideas.

There are people fighting everyday to protect that right. They have to follow orders from above. The military, not perfect, represents an ideal. It can be used for good or bad. The men and women in uniform died for that ideal. Take a moment and have a memorial for them.

Peace, love and light.

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Responses

  1. WOW…Reg, thanks…for reminding us what today represents, for giving us varying perspecives of how people are viewing THIS day.

    As I wipe the tears, again, thank you!

  2. brother rcyntje, you are powerful.
    i am having a memorial service today. memories light the corners of my magneficient mind. let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. with GOD as our father, brothers all are we. let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony. let peace begin with me , let this be the moment now. with every step i take, let this be my solemn vow. to take each moment, and live each moment, in peace eternally. let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. PEACE and LOVE, dvocals@hotmail.com

  3. Very well written article! I second what Ms. Green said above. It’s nice to hear the varying perspectives. Regardless of how I feel about war, I always support those who put their lives on the front line. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Reg.

  4. Thanks for this, although many men in my family served in various roles in the military, none have ever died in battle, other than my Native American ancestors long ago. There are various positions that people have about war, and I respect and understand everyone’s, taking anothers life is against nature, so every time that happens we damage our spirit, and it needs to heal, often times in the case of fallen soldiers, we need to help them by lighting a candle and wishing them peace, and that God allows them to move to their next journey without delay. We seem to have forgotten the reasons behind such rituals, so we left off performing them.

  5. this is quite profound. memorial day this year had a very different meaning for me than other years because my sister-in-law was in afghanistan at the time (army). she’s home now, unscathed physically…but she served in the medical unit, so i know she carries emotional haunts even if she is otherwise fine. i’ve known others with physical and emotional scars from battle who have difficulty speaking about it. thank you for being their voice today to remind the rest of us not to take our liberty, our peace, our health, our lives for granted.


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