Military bands are not just ‘frills’

Published 10:42 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2010

By Andrew B. Damiani

To the Editor:

When it comes to reducing spending, “frills” often get the axe. Cutting defense spending by eliminating military bands, a frill in the eyes of some, is unfair to the men and women in uniform who put their lives in jeopardy daily in service to our country.

I have firsthand knowledge of the morale-building effects of the bands. I was in them. I saw. While studying at Juilliard, I was drafted into the Army. During WWII, I played and entertained troops in many parts of the world.

On many occasions I played for then-Maj. Gen. Withers A. Burress, Commanding Officer of the 100th Infantry Division. Among the 80 or so musicians was a trio with whom I played bass. We entertained on special occasions.

Often afterward, the general would offer us a seat and a drink, and he would thank us for our service. Since he and I were both from Richmond, we had a special rapport. He offered to help me if I ever needed him, and toward the end of the war I called in the favor.

He helped me out, because he knew the value of military bands, especially to soldiers who were often cold, hungry and suffering from WWII intestinal problems.

It’s urban warfare now, but our fighters are the same, missing the lives they secure for us. I remember well the faces of soldiers who prized their time out of the foxholes listening to music, a language we all speak.