MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the nation’s most beloved holiday events and, this year, the Quantico Marine Corps Band will be among the 13 marching bands performing.
Macy’s officials formally invited the band to march last year during a ceremony outside Lejeune Hall on base.
With more than 3.5 million spectators expected along the parade route in New York and more than 50 million at home, Master Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery Fangman, bandmaster for Quantico’s band, said this event offers the Marine Corps a rare opportunity to reach the masses through music.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be invited into the homes of American families while they get together to celebrate Thanksgiving,” Fangman said. “It’s one of the greatest opportunities we have to tell the Marine Corps story to the nation and internationally — through music, drill, snap and pop, and through everything we represent as Marines.”
The band consists of about 50 members, but will be augmented with 30 additional Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. The ensemble is about 50 fewer musicians than usual, due to budget restraints, said Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Otis, enlisted conductor for the band. It’s also the first time they’ll be able to travel since the sequestration began in January.
“With the sequestration, all of our travel stopped but this was a big enough trip that the decision was made much higher than Headquarters Marine Corps,” said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Szabo, director and officer in charge of the band. “It was on the Secretary of Defense level to get representation not only for the Marine Corps but also the Armed Forces in the parade.”
The band will perform “Semper Fidelis,” the official march of the United States Marine Corps and the “Marines Hymn,” throughout the 2.5-mile parade route. Then at Macy’s Herald Square, which marks the parade’s final stop, they will perform “Strike up the Band.”
Even though their musical lineup doesn’t include holiday songs, Wesley Whatley, creative director for the parade, said their military precision and message of patriotism is exactly what the Macy’s officials wanted. The band rose to the top of more than 150 applicants.
“We knew choosing a Marine Corps Band would not only deliver an exciting musical moment but would create an opportunity to salute and give thanks for all the brave American men and women of our armed forces this Thanksgiving,” Whatley said.
It may be a treat for millions of Americans, but they aren’t the only ones thrilled about the upcoming spectacle.
Lance Cpl. Eric Potter, a clarinet player for Quantico’s band, said the parade represents the realization of a childhood dream. Even though Potter, who joined the Corps last year, performed during the 2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as college student at Towson University, he said it doesn’t compare to this occasion.
“It’s always been my dream to play with a military band and the fact that we’re going to Macy’s representing the Marine Corps Band is pretty awesome,” he said.
The parade also offered a unique opportunity for Capt. Joseph W. Hardin, Headquarters Company commanding officer at Headquarters and Service Battalion, to show his chops. Szabo said he heard that the former musician, who played in high school and some of college was exceptionally talented. He decided to test Hardin out, and after an impromptu drum demonstration he offered the commanding officer a rare opportunity to be an augment for the band. For Hardin, it was a surprise but also a tremendous honor.
“There are no words for how excited and honored I am to be performing,” Hardin said. “The Quantico Marine Corps Band has model leadership, expert professionalism, and an always perfect performance.”
Although their performance will only last 90 seconds, Otis said it’s a proud moment for Marines. It’s a chance to show love of country and Marine Corps pride to their families at home and millions of others.
“When [the viewers] see a group of 80 Marines marching down the street in their dress blues and with their medals, they’ll really get a glimpse of the pride of the Marine Corps, which goes beyond what we do in combat,” Otis said. “Our job is to show people that we have a three-block war mentality and we are that third block, we’re that hand reaching out.”
The band is expected to appear on NBC at approximately 10:48 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.