If citizens of Jacksonville were driving around town at approximately 1 p.m. Sunday, June 6, you might have seen an interesting site. Three charter busses were creeping through the neighborhoods trying to avoid road dips and low-lying tree limbs. Had a celebrity come to town? Had they taken the wrong turn and wound up in the residential areas of our quiet community? That would be a “no" to both questions. The issue wasn't who was coming to town but rather who was leaving town. And, the answer is that Jacksonville's own Friday night celebrities were headed out to see a bit of the nation and participate in their very own gig in Washington, D.C.
The Jacksonville Fightin’ Indian Band packed the busses with luggage, instruments and 125 excited bodies to make the long drive to our nation’s capital. Head band director, Joey Brunson, and his staff filled the students’ five day schedule with sightseeing, performances, and fun. While in the city, tour guides directed the group to some of the more important locations—Kennedy Performing Arts Center, The National Mall, Washington Monument, The World War II Monument, The Holocaust Museum, The Smithsonian Museums, The U.S. Capitol Building, Arlington Cemetery, The Vietnam War Memorial, The Korean War Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, The National Air and Space Museum, The White House, and even Union Station. Yes, everyone’s feet hurt, but the experience was well worth the effort.
The band students did not just sightsee. They also participated in two great opportunities. On Tuesday morning, the students donned their dress blacks and traveled to the World War II Memorial to perform several patriotic musical pieces for tourists viewing the memorial. The highlight of the experience came when chaperones realized that a tour group of veterans was also on the premises. The two tour groups arranged for the veterans to come over for a special encore presentation. Veterans from as far back as World War II were assisted to the area where the band was performing. Brittany Baxter, 2014 graduate and outgoing drum major said,“The performance at the WWII Memorial was the best part of the trip for me. We were so honored to meet veterans who served and fought for our country.”Students and veterans alike were humbled by the impact of the moment.
On Wednesday morning, four special students once again put on their dress blacks in preparation for the band to visit Arlington Cemetery. Noah Hardin, Angel Sanchez, Jolie Smith, and Evan Yount received a special privilege on this day. All four band members were selected to assist in the Laying of the Wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Coordinators of the event asked students to submit essays explaining why they wanted to participate in the ceremony. From the submissions, these four students were selected. Immediately following the changing of the guard, the four students were escorted to the tomb. Noah Hardin and Evan Yount laid a wreath specially designed with school colors to represent the Jacksonville Indians. The four students then stood at attention while a lone bugle sounded“Taps.”Baxter summed up everyone’s feelings at the conclusion of the ceremony. She said,“I am so proud to have been a member of this high school band and I will miss them next year.” Hardin, Sanchez, Smith and Yount did an excellent job of representing the band as well as the school and community.
Band members and chaperones dressed up once again for a dinner cruise down the Potomac River Wednesday evening. Students boarded The Odyssey for an evening of dinner, dancing and relaxation. Students honored Kenny and Deborah Nelson for their dedication and hard work as the 2013-2014 Band Boosters President and Treasurer. The Nelson's were given the floor for a slow dance and later joined by the students.
The Band Boosters as well as the band students wish to thank the community for supporting them. Baxter expressed her appreciation as well. “I am so thankful for everyone who came together to make this trip possible—the directors, chaperones, sponsors, and the community. We all made memories we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.”
Purchases from the band concession stand at home games as well as other events throughout the year helped the band earn the money for the trip.