PALM SPRINGS, Calif. --
Feet moving in unison, perfect straight lines, pressed dress blue uniforms, and precision with each note played, the Combat Center Band marched proudly down the streets of Palm Springs during their annual Veterans Day Parade Nov. 11, 2011, to honor the veterans who had gone before and those currently serving.
Each year, the band marches down the street playing patriotic songs. After the parade, the band conducts a concert, where hundreds gather to watch the Marines play. It’s the norm, it’s expected and it’s looked forward to by the families of the city.
This Veterans Day event is unique among others to the Marines because the band is scheduled to leave the Combat Center early next year, making this Veterans Day their final one.
“It’s going to be a big loss to the community and the base,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Heen, tuba player in the band. “We are representatives for [stateside and] deployed units, we are constantly in the public eye.”
The Veterans Day event is a fairly large gig for the band each year, not only because of the size of the crowd cheering them on, but also the history that surrounds the area by having so many veterans gathered together.
The band seeks to honor past heroes through music.
“History has always been such a big part of the Corps,” Heen said. "In my opinion it seems to be more significant to the Marine Corps than other branches. We love playing for the veterans.“
As the band played the hymns significant to each branch of the U.S. military, veterans seemed to dominate the streets as they jumped up and down with loud cheers to support the branch of service they had served or are currently serving in.
“The people love to see the Marines out here,” said Joe Pinedo, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran of the 1st Marine Air Wing. “It’s good for the community to see them. I hate to see them leave, its disappointing.”
For regulars of the parade, the news of the band’s departure was hard to take and somewhat surprising.
“They are wonderful,” said Carolyn Murdoch, Palm Springs resident. “They are always wonderful, very dedicated. It’s really sad to see them go.”
The band conducted themselves with professionalism, knowing they were representing the Corps by their public appearance.
“When veterans see us they always say, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t understand why,” Heen said. “We are here to thank them.”
Knowing this was their last Veterans Day event, the band wowed the crowd with even more gusto, playing music which seemed to tell all in attendance, ‘We are going out with a bang.’
“This is inspiring, they are so excellent,” said Cecil Murdoch, Carolyn’s husband.