An Afternoon With The Greatest Generation


My son plays in a band called New Horizons. It is an international organization that was established for the purpose of giving adults who have always dreamed of playing an instrument an opportunity to do just that.

At 16, Josh is the youngest member of the band but he loves it. He enjoys the people and it gives him another venue to play his beloved oboe.

This past Saturday was their first concert of the year and it took place at the local Veteran’s Home.

The band arrived an hour before the show to practice. Some of the residents came early so they could listen in, including one man who seemed particularly excited to be there. He asked the aide to wheel him right up front and his face was wreathed in smiles.

However, it soon became apparent that he didn’t understand that the band was only practicing. As soon as they would begin to play, he moved  his arms enthusiastically, as if he were conducting. But when the band would stop in order to go onto the next piece of music, he would drop his hands back into his lap and plead loudly, “Continue! Make melodies!”

When this happened a couple of times, an aide walked over to him and explained that the band was just practicing and the concert would begin soon enough. He waited patiently from that point until the concert began. Once it did, he continued to “conduct” with abandon and joy. The look of sheer happiness on his face was wonderful to see.

I was particularly intrigued when these two women were wheeled into the room…

What beautiful faces of two brave women who chose to step up and serve our magnificent country during WWII.

In a room full of mostly men, their lights shone brightly.

I so wanted to hear their stories but uncharacteristic shyness kept me in my seat. Instead, I asked one of the aides where the women had served. I was told that some were nurses, some served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and one of the women was actually a gunner on a battleship!

Amazing.

The room was full by the time the concert started.

When the band played the service anthems for each branch of the military, the veterans were asked to raise their hands when the song representing their branch was played. Hands shot up proudly all over the room.

As the first strains of “National Emblem” filled the air some felt the need to stand (most with great difficulty) and salute the flag at the front of the room.

Tears filled my eyes as I watched these great American warriors proudly salute. I felt so honored to be in the same room with these incredible men and women. My father served in the Korean war and both of my uncles saw combat in World War II. They are my heroes.

Will America ever see such a spectacular generation again?

I wanted to personally thank and shake every single veteran’s hand once the show ended.

Someone I was thrilled to meet was the “conductor.” His name is Robert and he served with the Navy. I was able to shake his hand and thank him for his service.

He was very intent to meet the band’s conductor, Mary.

He thanked her over and over again for coming to the home.

I am continually amazed at the power of music to unite people, to soothe, to bring joy, to cause one to go back and relive times that now exist only in the memory.

It was a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. I am so grateful for the band members for giving of their time and talent to bring such joy to these men and women who have given so much.

“Freedom isn’t free.” —Anonymous

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “An Afternoon With The Greatest Generation

  1. Gordon DuBois

    Susan,

    Thanks for that great message. You really put the day in perspective for me.

    Gordon DuBois, 2nd trombone

  2. Barbara Morrill

    Susan, thank you for writing about this special concert. It is really our privilege to be able to bring music and joy to the special heros of our country. Barbara Morrill, alto saxophone

  3. Susan, It was so thoughtful of you to create this beautiful tribute to the veterans and to share it with us. It was my privilege to play in the concert with New Horizons Band.

    Jane Fairchild, Flute

  4. Valerie Kimball

    Susan, your tribute flows so nice; it’s informative, creative,and powerful!!! I’m anxious to show this to both Karl (tuba player) and John (my trumpet playing son). Ever so much THANKS for sharing!
    also with tears, ~Valerie

  5. Lynne DeVivo

    Susan: Thank you for taking the time to write such a moving piece. We, members of the band are so intent on reading our music we can’t always see how our audience is reacting to the music. It’s a pleasure playing for our vets and I appreciate your sharing such touching observations.
    Lynne DeVivo- Clarinet

    • Hi Lynne,
      Thank you! Just as it was your pleasure to play for the veterans, it was my pleasure to be able to use my words and my camera to capture that afternoon! :)

  6. Martha Perry

    Susan,
    Wonderful, Heartwarming, and you have such a way with words! My Dad was a Marine in WW2 earning a Purple Heart, as I’m certain there were some among the Veterans there. Music brings us all closer together and I was lucky enough to sit next to Josh – who is an amazing young man!
    Martha

    • Thank you for your kind words, Martha! And God bless your dad…a Purple Heart…wow! As for Josh, we think he is amazing too! :) Thanks! He loves being part of New Horizons!

  7. Ken Greenbaum

    Susan –
    Thank you for writing such a moving and important commentary on the power of music to unite people. In this day when there is so much divisiveness in our country, it is rewarding to be part of something that brings people together. Your article helps all of us to recognize the importance of making a contribution and “giving back” to those who have given so much. Thank you!

  8. Wendy Miller

    Thank you for the opportunity to play for our heros. I felt very proud to play the drums for them. I brought Abby Greene with me who had served 12 years in the Air Force during the Korean War. I asked her if playing these marches had made the vets sad or depressed. She said “no, that it brings back good memories of their comraderies and proudness of the service to their country.” So I say Hoo Raah to the vets of the past and the ones serving now and to The New Horizons Band. I am proud to have been united with both. Thank you again!
    Wendy Miller, percussion

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