YORKTOWN, Virginia –
Soldiers of the 29th Division Band provided ceremonial detail for the dedication ceremony of the American Revolution Museum April 1, 2017, in Yorktown, Virginia. The Virginia National Guard Soldiers, along with Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, were on hand to celebrate the recently-opened museum. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Col. Thierry Casanova, representing the embassy of France to the United States, were among the many distinguished guests at the historic event.
The new Yorktown museum sits in close proximity to the protected battlefield where American forces cemented their victory of the Revolutionary War in 1781, during the Siege at Yorktown.
Some 3,500 men served with the Virginia militia during the siege, said Al Barnes, command historian for the Virginia National Guard. They performed many combat support and combat service tasks such as building fortifications, distributing rations, herding cattle to the encampments and manned siege lines. An estimated 40 percent of the American forces at Yorktown were Virginia militia troops, the spiritual forefathers of the Virginia National Guard.
For the Soldiers of the 29th Division Band to perform during the ceremony of the new museum, beautifully situated atop a rolling green hill, overlooking the York River, was a transcendence of history and tradition.
Since the creation of the U.S. Army in 1775, Army bands have played a crucial role on and off the battlefield. During the Revolutionary War, trumpets controlled mounted maneuvers by cavalry regiments and drum calls controlled the Soldiers’ day, since regulation did not allow for verbal commands.
Also during this time, Army bands played at rallies, where colonists would gather with banners flying, to hear compelling speeches for the war and enjoy inspiring patriotic music. These early events solidified an important segment of the Army band’s mission, community support events. The interdependent nature of the military and the communities they serve is as relevant now as it was over 200 years ago.
The Soldiers of the 29th Division Band perform an average of 45 missions per year, half of which are community support events, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Carlson, commander of the band. Unlike the other half of their missions, these are performed for civilian audiences, many of whom have limited knowledge about the Virginia National Guard.
“Military bands are apart of the esprit de corps of the organization,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjuant General of Virginia. “Really, they’re the ambassadors and perform a vital role in making sure we get the National Guard presence out, getting the military connected to the communities. Without the presence of the 29th Division Band here today, not many would have connected the dots of the National Guard and the troops who fought here at Yorktown.”
At the end of every concert at a community support event the band says, ‘Please come up and talk to our Soldiers,’ said Carlson. And the Soldiers are happy to go out and talk to people. One of the Army band’s goals is to put the citizen in touch with the Soldier.
“Suzanne Flippo, who attended today, said her father fought in the 29th ID during World War II. So when they rolled out the 29th Division Band, she was overcome with emotion. That connection is all over the commonwealth,” said Williams.
Across the band, many of the Soldiers can recount moving moments of civilians approaching them to share how the band’s music or presence moved them, and not just within the commonwealth. When performing in France, 29th Division Band Soldiers have been greeted by French nationals who remember the significant contribution the unit made to their national history on D-Day.
“Everywhere I go, I am completely humbled by people saying, ‘thank you for your service’,” said Carlson. “And this gives them an opportunity to stop and talk. We get to hear amazing stories, and they get the experience of sharing their story.”
Author Sarah Dressen said, “Music is the great unifier. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”
“This is so much more than being a musician, there’s so much more to it,” said Carlson. “ In my life music has always been a priority but in this it’s about the mission. It doesn’t matter what the mission is, I’m going to be one hundred percent, we’re going to be 100 percent.”
Through comprehensive, immersive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown offers a truly national perspective, conveying a sense of the transformational nature and epic scale of the Revolution and the richness and complexity of the country’s Revolutionary heritage. For more information please visit historyisfun.org