Imagine you are on the battlefield during the Revolutionary War and think about the noise; cannons, rifle and pistol fire, screaming soldiers engaged in combat with swords and bayonets, and the thundering hooves of the Cavalry. The only things that could cut through that cacophony distinctly were a fife, drum, and trumpet (bugles gained prominence shortly after the turn of
the 19th century, and remain the primary signal brass today) and those instruments were used to call out instructions and commands.
"Field music at that time is not what we think of military bands today," explains SFC Jay Martin, bugler, and trumpeter with United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. "Field music was comprised of the fife, drums, and trumpeters for mounted cavalry units. Our role as musicians was for communication purposes on the battlefield. There were command calls for everything from turning left to lights out, and the troops had to know them."
SFC Martin explains the instruments were specific to units.
"The soldiers knew if they heard a trumpet it was a cavalry thing. If they heard a fife, it was an infantry thing, and they had to identify the different calls."
Battlefield musicians were in fact armed but with smaller weapons and based on what was available. While it was not considered "good form", they were often targeted and were wounded, killed, or taken as a prisoner.
From the white wigs to the tailored red coats every aspect of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is designed with history and field music in mind. The unit was formed in 1960 and according to SFC Martin was originally made up of non-musician infantrymen, harkening back to the field musicians of the Continental Army.
"The Old Guard has been the ceremonial standard bearer for the U.S. Army for decades, and they wanted to add another element to represent even more of our Army's early heritage."
Today, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is a performance group comprised of seventy men and women with diverse musical backgrounds.
"A lot of folks in the unit, such as myself, come from the conservatory, school of music approach and training while some come specifically from a fife and drum heritage. There's a whole sub-culture of fife and drum music in the United States that took off after the Civil War," explains SFC Martin. "They may have gone to school for chemistry, history or something like that, but, they grew up as a musician learning in an almost folk tradition way, from someone in their family lineage."
In addition to their performance responsibilities, each member has a secondary task assignment directly related to the unit's operation. The whole unit can be split up into smaller groups for different jobs.
"It may sound cliche, but, our typical day, isn't," chuckles SFC Martin. "We're always adapting. We start our day with physical fitness, then rehearsals begin in one form or another, and we're also training new soldiers coming into the fold. We may send a couple of fifers and a drum out for a small ceremony or colors mission at the local convention center and at the same time, we may have twenty-six soldiers standing out for a ceremony at Ft. Myer. Later that evening we could have another full group performance."
Right now, much their logistics have been tied up in preparing for their upcoming Basel Tattoo presentation in Switzerland.
Wreaths Across America believes military musicians are among the finest players and vocalists in the world representing every musical genre and SFC Martin confirms they are exemplary ambassadors for the service branch they represent instilling patriotism, pride, and respect using music; the one language all people understand without uttering a word.
"As military musicians on the home front, we get to go out and meet with people who may have never met anyone in the military, and we're that bridge. Our historical and educational performances give a human face to the uniform in our interactions. We serve a great role in recruiting and exemplify the diversity of job opportunities available in the military."
By design, the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps does travel overseas for performances but does not deploy with their units as typical Army bands do.
You can hear more from our interview about the history of the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps with SFC Jay Martin along with their music on Wreaths Across America's "Military Musicians Showcase" on Saturday's and Sunday's from 10:00 AM until Noon Eastern on Wreaths Across America Radio.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.