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Duty Honor Country

By SFC (Ret.) Andre V. Milteer

"Duty," "Honor," "Country"—those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.   Duty Honor Country

   
Duty Honor Country is the acceptance speech given by General Douglas MacArthur at West Point on 12 May
1962 on the occasion of his receiving the Sylvanus Thayer Award. [Source: Wikipedia].
 
 
As an Honorably-Discharge, Career Military Bandsman, I sometimes get a little teary-eyed during U.S. holidays of a patriotic nature. Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and [especially] July 4th’s Independence Day celebratory holiday(s) really give me nostalgic rise. Performing military music and perennial audience favorites was my livelihood; moreover, an inner spirit of nationalistic appreciation and gratitude grew within me resulting from +19 years of professionally engaging patriotic symbolism via military music.
 
 
The War of 1812

 
 
Russian composer, Pyotr [Peter] Tchaikovsky’s (1840–1893) [The] 1812 Overture is the best known musical selection associated with 4th of July.
 
            For the past 30+ years, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture has been performed
            during countless United States’ Independence Day celebrations, due largely in
            part to an exhilarating performance by the Boston Pops in 1974,
            conducted by Arthur Fiedler.
[Source: Aaron Green, About.com]
 
 
Bucking tradition, my personal favorite 4th of July musical commemorative selection is Duty, Honor Country [as published and arranged by Harold Walters]. Unofficially termed, A Salute to the American Soldier, Walter’s Duty, Honor, Country (DHC) incorporates a military band accompaniment that is foreshadowed by an lyric oratory reflection of McArthur’s 1962 West Point speech. The U.S. Army Field Band performed and recorded (2006) a DHC rendition with a guest oration by (Ret,) General Norman Swarzkopf.

My fondest recollection of performing DHC as a Military Bandsman was back in the early 80’s…a brash young trombonist under the command and baton of  Warrant Officer Ed[ward] Greene. Choreographing an appealing musical program of patriotic favorites, The Chief placed DHC as a precursor to the 1812 overture. [I disagreed with that playing order, but wisely kept my unsolicited opinion to Me-Self!!!] Looking back, protocol dictates that a 4th of July music program culminate with the 1812. Yet, I doth protest…
 
Culling the available talent(s) within our military organization, Chief Greene tapped Drum Major, pianist, and Non-Commissioned Officer, Robert (Bob) Mitchell [“Mitch the Fingers”]. Rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal, I grew weary and nauseous of  DHC. Then it happened…
 
 
The Performance

 
The date, July 4, 1980, First Cavalry Division Band setup the chairs, microphones, stands, and podium for that evening performance. The crowd of military community folk eagerly anticipated the nightly 1812 overture nightly performance with cannon fire support delivered by the 1/82nd Field Artillery.
 
Following the script, The Chief summoned Staff Sergeant (SSG) Mitchell to the narrative mike. The band sounded subtly with the baton downbeat as rehearsed. Then, with the percussive backdrop of the concert bass drum, Mitchell began his amplified oratory…Duty, Honor, Country. [cue: Goosebumps]
 
 

 
Click on picture to view video!

 
On April 15, 2013, Lt. Col. Mark Weber was featured at Commandant’s Hour at West Point’s Eisenhower Hall Theatre. Lt. Col. Weber’s profound remarks presented 1st Class Cadets with insight regarding strength, growth, and inspiration. His story of empowerment and encouragement, despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer, concluded with a performance of “Duty, Honor, Country” with the West Point Band.
 
 

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