Craig, Parker bands proud to perform on Memorial Day
Memorial Day in Janesville
JANESVILLE For Janesville's two high school marching bands, the city's Memorial Day parade is about much more than music and stepping off in unison.
Granted it's a required activity, but there are other reasons why these musicians march.
"It's part of my grade, but I'd do it anyway," said Craig High trombone player Marco Marquez. "Marching in the parade is a way to honor veterans, and I'm glad I can be a part of that."
Marquez reflects the attitude of veteran Craig High band director Dave Rush.
"We talk about why we march," Rush said. "We talk about why we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have.
"I was glad to hear what Marco had to say," Rush added. "It's good for the kids to learn what Memorial Day is all about."
The same sentiments are evident in the Parker High band.
"I ask our kids how many of us would rather be enjoying the day off or visiting with family and friends at a cookout," said band director John Biester. "Sure, we all raised our hands. Then I ask how many of us appreciate what our veterans have done for us, and we all raise our hands again."
That's the reason, Biester said, the Parker band marches every Memorial Day.
"It's a tribute to those who have sacrificed so we can enjoy our freedom," he said.
About 250 spectators lined the parade route Monday from West Milwaukee and High Street, east on Milwaukee to Main Street, and then north on Main to Traxler Park.
Shaking hands and greeting the crowd was Staff Sgt. Brian Cook, an Army National Guard recruiter from Monroe. Cook, who served a tour of duty in Iraq, said he was proud to be in the parade because it provided the community an opportunity to honor veterans.
"It's a time to remember what freedom is all about," Cook said. "It helps us honor those who made so many sacrifices for us."
Amy Bowar-Litten of Janesville, whose father, Butch, served in Korea, was beaming with pride when Boy Scout Troop 516 marched by near Main and Milwaukee streets. Her 11-year-old son, Dale, was part of the group.
"I'm so proud of him," she said. "He works hard on his merit badges. Marching in the parade is a lesson in respecting our country, its flag and our veterans. A lot of that is lost today with youngsters, so I'm proud to see him participating in this."
One of the most popular entries in the parade was the Craig High School cheerleading squad, which performed stunts and cheers along the way while passing out candy to the children. Cheer coach Kati Ziegelmann said she had 31 varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders on hand to entertain along the parade route.
The Craig band also performed during ceremonies at Traxler Park after the parade. And Marquez was easy to spot in a sea of blue uniforms.
His trombone is red.
So why the red trombone when Craig's main school color is blue?
"My trombone is red because all the other trombones are blue," he said simply.
Even in a group that requires uniformity while honoring those who served and sacrificed, there's still room for individualism in the Craig band.
"We play traditional Memorial Day marching songs in the parade, but we also play, "Louie, Louie," Rush said. "Some people say it's not respectful, but one year a Vietnam vet thanked us for playing it, and that's enough for me."
Memorial Day all about honoring sacrifices: Hines
Under warm and windy conditions Monday, Milton native Joe Hines brought words of encouragement to Janesville during his Memorial Day speech at Traxler Park.
"For a long time, Memorial Day seemed at risk of becoming just another day off work," said Hines, a former Army lieutenant colonel who now lives in Madison. "But in recent years, a renewed emphasis to the meaning of this day has unfolded, and a new awareness of the sacrifices of our military members is emerging."
Hines quoted President Barack Obama from the president's last State of the Union address:
"At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, our military exceeded all expectations."
Hines suggested the shift in Memorial Day awareness might be related to lessons learned from the Vietnam War.
"It was a conflict whose veterans fought bravely and honorably, but who were largely unappreciated and ignored by a country that wanted to forget that war," he said. "I would like to think that this nation has recognized this mistake and has come to realize that the popularity of a war cannot, and should not, determine how it treats the citizens it sends to fight those wars."
Hines said he has seen this shift in awareness firsthand as strangers now approach him and thank him for his service.
"President Kennedy once said, 'A nation reveals itself not only by the citizens it produces, but also by the citizens it honors—the citizens it remembers,'" Hines said.
Hines asked citizens to continue their Memorial Day awareness by constantly re-telling stories of those who gave, what President Lincoln called "the last full measure."
"Honor their sacrifices, tell their stories and cherish their memories," he said.