Washington, D.C. --
In a formal ceremony on Friday, June 25, at the Marine Barracks Annex, Marine Band Executive Assistant to the Director Lt. Col. John R. Barclay retired from the United States Marine Corps after 30 years of active duty service. He has served as a clarinetist, Operations Assistant and Assistant Drum Major, Administrative Assistant to the Director, 37th Drum Major of the Marine Band, ceremonial marcher at Marine Barracks Washington, parade commander, Chief Instructor of Ceremonial Drill School for Marine Barracks officers and staff non-commissioned officers, and escort commander for Full Honors Funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
The ceremony began with Navy Chaplain Lt. Keith J. Lightner offering the invocation, during which he referenced Barclay’s “unwavering fidelity” as a musician, marcher, and United States Marine “whose reputation resounds throughout this institution.” He encouraged guests to “honor and labor after the legacy he leaves behind.”
That legacy includes a Legion of Merit, awarded to Barclay during the ceremony for “exceptionally meritorious conduct from January 1988 to August 2018.” The award citation stated: “Through his outstanding musicianship, ceremonial excellence, inspired leadership, and unwavering devotion to duty, Barclay set the standard for all to emulate. … By virtue of his remarkable leadership, innovation, and commitment to the mission of the Marine Band and Marine Barracks Washington. Lt. Col. Barclay reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”
Following the award presentation, Colonel Tyler J. Zagurski, former Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, offered remarks on the Marine he called ‘a brilliant mentor and instructor’ and lauded Barclay’s impact on the band, the Barracks, and the local community.
“We all have a sense of how special he is,” Zagurski said. “He has bridged the gap between the band and the Barracks and he has taught generations of marchers. Everything he does is for the betterment of the Marine Barracks and the band. This is the end of an era. He will be dearly missed.”
And that is true. Marine Band Director Colonel Jason K. Fettig then spoke from the heart, offering light and humorous anecdotes but also sharing how he will dearly miss his executive assistant and good friend “JB.”
“He has been my eyes and ears and my counsel,” Fettig said, “and he’s been the subject matter expert in so many areas, to help guide me to be the best director and commander I could be for the band.”
Fettig explained to the guests that Barclay went from a clarinet player to managing the band’s day-to-day workings in the operations office. Then as drum major Barclay served as the senior enlisted member of the unit responsible for the band’s appearance, ceremonial drill and military decorum, adding that one of Barclay’s favorite memories is that of leading the band down Pennsylvania Avenue for the 2001 inaugural parade of President George W. Bush. Barclay served as drum major until 2001 when he was appointed Executive Assistant and, according to Fettig, “has been truly a standard-bearer in every way whether it was his uniform maintenance and bearing or his commitment to duty, initiative, and attention to detail which drove him in every aspect of his work.”
Finally, Lt. Col. Barclay stepped up to the lectern and offered his own remarks being sure to recount memories of a childhood that pointed toward his future as a member of “The President’s Own.”
“As a small boy, all I wanted to do was be like my Dad,” Barclay said. “My Dad was a member of the U.S. Marine Band from 1950-57. In fact, he marched in the very first Evening Parade on July 5, 1957.”
Barclay continued, explaining how his Dad was forced to leave the band to run his family’s music stores in the Philadelphia area. “My father left here, but his love and respect for this organization never left him.”
“My Dad had photos of the Marine Band all over his teaching studio,” Barclay said. And although the elder Barclay, after moving to Las Vegas, played for famous musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Elvis, and Wayne Newton, “he was most proud of being a member of the Marine Band.”
When Barclay’s father heard there was a clarinet vacancy in the Marine Band, he bought a plane ticket for him to fly to Washington, D.C. for the audition. Barclay, who wanted to be an orchestral musician, agreed begrudgingly and flew from the University of Southern California to the East Coast where he stayed with his Uncle Morris and ended up being one of two finalists for the audition. While he was in town for the audition, Uncle Morris took him to Marine Barracks Washington where they watched a Friday Evening Parade.
“Back in those days we had these old rickety bleachers with a black liner on the ground in front of the bleachers. I came to the parade and had no idea what I would see. I remember the officer march on and I remember the battalion march on. … That was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I wanted to be part of that,” Barclay explained, admitting that the parade is what influenced him to return to school and work as hard as he could to win the next Marine Band clarinet audition. In November 1987, he did just that. “I wouldn’t be here without my Dad, and I still sometimes wonder why then-director of the Marine Band Colonel John Bourgeois took a chance on a 19-year old clarinetist. But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.”
Almost 300 gathered to honor Barclay at the retirement ceremony in John Philip Sousa Band Hall. Among those who came to celebrate his illustrious career were his family members from Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania; Sgt. Maj. D. Scott Frye, USMC (ret.); Marines from Marine Barracks Washington; and many former and current members of the Marine Band, to include former Director Colonel Timothy Foley, USMC (ret.), former Executive Assistant to the Director Capt. Frank Byrne, USMC, (ret.), and former Drum Major William R. Browne, USMC (ret.).
At the end of his remarks, Barclay stepped onto the podium to conduct “The President’s Own” in his favorite march, John Philip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis.” To conclude the ceremony, he stood smartly at attention as the band played The Marines’ Hymn.
On his career, Barclay said, “I have spent more than 30 years of my life serving in the best unit, at the best duty station, in the best military organization on Earth. I have never worked a day in my life. I will miss everything about this place.”
View photos from the ceremony