MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif --
The cool mountain air and local community of Estes Park, Colo., played host to the Combat Center Band Sept. 4 through Sunday for the town’s annual Long’s Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival.
Fans braved chilly nights, with the help of hot chocolate and hot dogs, to see the bands’ quick and crisp marches and hear their defined sound, which makes them a fan favorite where-ever they go.
While some may think the band is merely an act for the ears and eyes, fans in attendance admitted the band also served as a unique means of boosting their morale and patriotism.
The festival, which celebrates Celtic traditions, featured Celtic music concerts, jousting competitions, Scottish athletic events, dancing competitions, vendors, and a dog exhibition competition, among other things.
Other musical acts included the Niagara Regional Police Pipe Band, the Royal Canadian Legion Highland Mist Band, and the United States Military Academy Field Music Group also known as the “The Hellcats.”
While these acts were rookies to the 32-year-old festival, the Combat Center Band was attending the event for the eighth year in a row.
When asked why the Combat Center Band was asked to return to an event which seeks out fresh musical talent each year, fans said the band’s popularity stems from more than fancy uniforms and sensational music.
“For me it’s being able to see guys with the same love of country,” said Leslie Herman, a former Marine who served as a field artillery operator from 1969 to 1971. “The band to me shows integrity, discipline, camaraderie, and esprit de corps.”
Michael May, who served as a Marine aircraft electrician and electronic technician from 1960 to 1964, added some people do come for the Dress Blue uniform, but others come for the sense of patriotism the band represents.
“They symbolize patriotism, protection, and good, young people doing their duty for their country,” said Dianne Wallace, a native of Bevier, Miss. “It’s a lot of pride when I see and hear the band.”
Shane Uhrick, who came to see the band perform during the festival’s parade on Saterday morning of Sept. 6, agreed with May and Wallace.
“They give me a real feeling of pride and patriotism,” said Uhrick, a native of Fort Morgan, Colo. “When it comes down to it, the Marines are the first ones in the fight, so they are the symbol of America.”
Karen Reid, a Plymouth, Mass., native, who was also attending the parade, said the band’s annual return has a lot to do with its member’s interaction with the local community while on liberty, and how the interaction helps local families support their children’s desire to enlist in the armed forces.
“They make me proud, especially at this time so close to 9/11, and give me a sense of patriotism” said Reid. “People want to see our military, and they want to see the Marines.”
Sgt. Victor Diaz, a piano player who has attended the festival with the Combat Center Band for three years, said the band provides veterans with the opportunity to come out and reconnect with their military past, and shared an opinion similar to Reid’s.
“We represent their sons and daughters,” said Diaz, a native of New York City. “We represent the America they want to see, not the America they see on the news.”
After returning from Estes Park, Combat Center Band officer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen B. Giove, expressed his happiness with the performance of his Marines.
“The Marines performed nostalgically, and they represented the Combat Center with the utmost professionalism,” said Giove. “With all their hard work they have something to be proud of.”
While the band once again proved their musical expertise at Estes Park, with such musical pieces as “Swing, Swing, Swing,” “The Armed Services Melody,” “Amazing Grace,” and “God Bless America,” they also proved their reach and appeal goes beyond the musical spectrum.
The musicians of the band, who are basically trained riflemen and who can serve as perimeter security or a provisional machine gun platoon during times of war, embedded a sense of pride and patriotism into thousands of Americans and painted the Marine Corps in the most positive of lights.
“This festival would not be the same without the Combat Center Band,” said Wallace. “I love all the other stuff, but the band needs to be here every year.”
After a couple days of rest, the Combat Center Band will begin preparing for an upcoming trip to Wisconsin, where they will help with recruiting in the Milwaukee and Green Bay area.