In 1972 I had a once in a lifetime opportunity. During June 1972, I served as an intern in the office of U.S. Representative Joe L. Evins, a congressman from Tennessee. At the time, I was a student at Cumberland College in Lebanon, Tennessee. Congressman Evins had graduated from Cumberland’s law school in 1934 and was then on its board of directors. His connection with Cumberland is the reason I got the opportunity. Congressman Evins was a Christian man. One Sunday he and his wife picked me up at the Young Women’s Christian Home where I was boarding and they took me to church with them.
Among the activities I enjoyed during that month were the stirring concerts by the United States Marine Band on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. As I recall, these were held on Thursday evenings. Those were sweet memories a few weeks ago when Ray and I had the privilege of attending a concert by the U.S. Air Force Band which, along with the Air Force’s choral ensemble, The Singing Sergeants, was touring Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. If you have a chance to attend a concert by any of our U.S. military bands, I encourage you to do so.
The Air Force Band is based in Washington, D.C. and performs around the country and around the world. At the concert we attended in Nashville, we learned that the band had just spent three weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland, performing in The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Tattoo included bands from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Switzerland, and Norway. More than 200,000 people from around the world saw performances there.
Colonel Don Schofield is the commander of the band. Colonel Schofield is an energetic and enthusiastic leader whose comments to the audience during the concert made it even more entertaining and heart-warming. In a news article from the Department of Defense, I saw this quote from Colonel Schofield concerning the tattoo in Scotland:
What makes this mission so special for The United States Air Force Band is not only the pageantry of the cultures that we embed with but also the ability to partner with our trusted friends from across the world. What’s most thrilling is we’re in this space with 9,000 people every night for 26 performances and . . . we get to project the best of American culture.
A beautiful projection of the best of American culture—this is what we saw that night in Nashville as we enjoyed the band and The Singing Sergeants, which is one of the band’s six choral ensembles. The quality of the entertainment was top notch. During intermission, band members mingled with the audience. Many were greeting their own family members and friends who were among those enjoying the concert. I spoke with a French horn player who told me that every member of the band has at least a bachelor’s degree in music. Some have master’s; some, like himself, have a doctorate. Each band member must audition, be accepted, and attend boot camp before becoming part of the band.
Our older daughter had let us know about the concert tour and locations. She and her family saw a performance at a high school near her home on a Thursday night. She wrote that we were going to love it, saying “it gives you hope for America.” She sent us pictures they had taken with one of the band members and one of the Singing Sergeants. Ray and I saw the concert the next night at Trevecca Nazarene University while we were staying at Hope Lodge in Nashville. During intermission, Ray and I saw the young band member we had seen in one of our daughter’s pictures, so we went over to visit with him. Just for fun, I showed him the picture of himself. I wish you could have seen his face. He was so surprised. This fun-loving young man said, “Let’s take one, too, and you can send it to her and say, ‘I got to meet him, too!'” Here it is.
We sent it to our daughter during the concert. She loved it. When the concert was over, we saw the Singing Sergeant we had seen in her pictures and got a picture with her, too.
We passed the joke on to our younger daughter who was going to their concert with her daughter in Crossville, Tennessee, two days later. You guessed it! She got pictures with the same folks, too. That was all so fun.
The concert had many highlights. Ray and I were especially moved when they played the service song of each military branch, including the new Space Force. Colonel Schofield told anyone in the audience to stand if they or a family member had served in that branch. While the songs were playing, he walked around shaking hands with some of the people who were standing. We stood proudly in honor of our daddies when they played “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” Colonel Schofield was near us then. He shook both our hands, and we had the privilege of telling him about our daddies.
We were thrilled when they played “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa. Another highlight came near the end of the concert when the band played and the audience sang “God Bless America,” along with The Singing Sergeants.
As we were leaving, we saw the fun-loving band member again. We learned that he was from New Jersey. He asked if we were from Nashville, and we told him why we were staying there. He said, “I will pray for you.”
As we walked into the night, we saw the Air Force buses waiting in the parking lot.
Our daughter was right. It gave me hope for America.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence
and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.