MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The evening was drawing near as a cool breeze blew off the inter-coastal waterway while the Marines from 2nd Marine Division and 2nd Marine Air Wing bands setup for their evening concert in New Bern, N.C., May 15.
The evening’s event was part of the South Lawn Concert Series located in the Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens. The Marines were accompanied by vocals from the Crystal Coast Choral Society during a few of their musical compositions.
“It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all here,” said Finley Woolston, a local radio personality and friend of the 2nd Marine Division Band. “I have the distinguished honor of sharing the stage here tonight with the United States Marines.”
Many locals came early to get front row seats for the concert. The band took their place and the crowd took their seats in lawn chairs and on blankets as Woolston, the evening’s master of ceremonies, introduced the bands.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mikel G. Laird, 2nd MAW Band Officer, took the conductor’s podium and began “Moorside March from ‘A Moorside Suite’” as the audience listened and watched attentively at every move they made. The audience’s applause echoed through the lawn area after every piece played.
“The Marines are doing an excellent job and sound beautiful with every piece they play,” explained Margaret Sampson, who drove in for this event from Wilmington, N.C.
Laird stepped off the conductor’s podium and turned the band over to the 2nd Marine Division Band Officer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael J. Smith.
“Now we have the infantry taking over for the second half of the evening’s performance,” Woolston said.
Smith took his baton in hand and began conducting “The Jack Tar March” by John Philip Sousa to begin the second half of the concert. After a few pieces by the band, Smith took a moment to speak to the audience members, explaining to them what these Marines did while in Iraq.
“These Marines here, now in their primary MOS (military occupation specialty), took on a different task as fighting warriors while deployed to Iraq,” he said.
Three Marine trumpeters, Sgts. Steven Williams and T. Logan Brown, along with Cpl. Austin Hunt, left their seats only to return into position dressed in a colorful Mexican outfit for the Mexican piece, “Malaguena.” The colorful arrangement drew the attention of the audience as they stood tall playing their trumpets in harmony.
“Armed Forces’72” was played toward the end of the ceremony, honoring all military servicemembers. Active duty, retired military and family members from each service stood up to be recognized as each service’s song was played.
“Thank you to all of you who have served and are still serving,” Woolston said after the piece was finished. “Thanks as well to the families who have sons and daughters overseas too.”
Smith stepped down from his podium, turning it over to Woolston, who conducted a piece with the band and choir.
Smith and Woolston have worked together putting on concerts for the past five years. Smith will soon be moving on to New Orleans with the Marine Forces Reserve as the band officer.
Woolston followed his conducting by talking about all he has done with “Mr. Smith.”
“This may not be a special thing to many people, but to me it is very special,” he said with a hint of emotion filling his voice. “As he (Smith) leaves and moves on, I want him to have my baton … Mr. Smith, my baton.”
As the evening drew to a close and the band finished their final piece, they received a standing ovation from audience members young and old. The sounds resonated off the brick walls surrounding them as the band members stood rigidly at attention.
“If it wasn’t for all of you here at home, we wouldn’t be able to do all that we do,” said Smith.