In Search of Patriotism in Drum Corps?
The tragic September 11th events in New York and Washington D.C. will undoubtedly remain in the minds of many of us for years to come, much in the way that WWII, the Korean War, the Viet Nam Conflict, the Gulf War, and other events will remain in the minds of those who lived through those times. The September 11th events impacted me in several ways. The first was a call from my daughter. She was at school a few minutes before jazz band practice started. The TV was on and some students were watching the news of what everyone thought was a horrible aviation accident. As she watched, the news showed the second plane hit the other tower. To this day, she still has problems expressing the emotions she felt as the plane entered the building and the joined masses exploded into flames. The second impact came from my wife. She works as a registered nurse at a Naval Air Station. She has EA6B Prowlers all around her. Security increased tenfold. All cars entering the base are checked and lines to get in ran over an hour. Today, all cars are still physically checked inside and underneath the cars through the use of mirrors.
I felt the impact of the day's events in the fact that I work for Boeing, the manufacturer of the planes that hit the buildings. The 767 that struck the tower was built a few hundred feet from where I sit. Through the work I do monitoring manufacturing status metrics, I watched that plane being built 'by the numbers'. I never really 'saw' the plane... I saw its 'build' status. The use of Boeing products, built as a means of travel for those on business or vacation, impacted thousands of Boeing employees. How could our peacetime products be used as an implement of war?
It also impacted me as a reminder of my years in a junior corps... the Nisei Ambassadors from Chicago... and the news we received through our subscription to Drum Corps Digest. Quite often we would receive reports of a former or current corps member losing their life in Viet Nam. One can also not forget the picture of a VK member hanging a VK flag in his camp. It was quite a sight!
The newsgroup rec.arts.marching.drumcorps (RAMD) has also become a means of expressing political thoughts and stories of survival, and of drum corps losses. Several people in the towers or responding firefighters, paramedics and police were current or former corps members. Expressions of sympathy and prayer have abounded in the group. Another thing that has returned to the drum corps community are thoughts of our drum corps roots and color presentations. Many people want it back!
The Nisei Ambassadors were a corps who had a profound belief in patriotism. Founded by members of the 442nd Regiment of WWII, the Nisei were Japanese Americans who fought valiantly during the war. Due to their outstanding bravery and the heavy combat duty they faced, the 442nd became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. There were over 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500 Purple Hearts, and seven Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations.
The Nisei carried on with patriotism through VFW and American Legion Posts. It was a Legion and VFW Post that formed the Nisei Ambassadors. While 'Nisei' was a part of it's name, the Ambassadors were open to members of all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, etc. It was more of a United Nations corps than anything else!
The shows of all corps in 'my time' (late 60's to early 70's) were 100-yard drills. We had our 'off the line' opener, color presentation, concert, and our off the field. We had uniform inspections. We had our preliminary short show and our full 11-minute finals show. Both the long show and the short show had color presentations.
I remember my first show in Wheaton, Illinois in 1968. The show was going according to plan. During color presentation, I did something I had never done through practiced... I turned my head! Instead of looking at the back of the head in front of me, I looked toward the audience. I saw the 'standard' section headed towards the sidelines. (The 'standard' section consisted of the US flag, the State Flag, either the Legion or VFW flag depending on the show sponsorship, two rifles and sabers.) I also saw the crowd standing with their hands over their hearts! I saw the Legion members standing at attention and saluting the flag! I saw the judges standing straight with their clipboards at their sides. Everyone was honoring the flag.
When Northwest Venture was formed a few years ago, the members of the board had a priority that the colors would be on the field for every show. To this day, our 'standard' section leads the corps onto the field. Caryn proudly carries the flag in a carrier custom built especially for her. What I don't see is what I long remember. I don't see the audience standing as she travels down the 50 towards the sideline. I don't see the judges stop their sideline banter. No one on the track salutes the flag.
The talk on RAMD was for all the corps to do patriotic shows this coming season. Play Sousa. Play "God Bless America" "Bring back the formal colors presentation!" people are yelling. "Let us show our patriotism in the face of our enemies!"
My question to you is, "Why did you stop?"