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United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Marine Brass Ensemble Concert Commemorates 75th Anniversary of Flag Raising at Iwo Jima

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | February 19, 2020

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On Feb, 23, 1945, photographer Joseph Rosenthal captured the image of six United States Marines raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. To commemorate the historic 75th anniversary, a Marine Brass Ensemble will perform a free concert at 2 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 23, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. The concert will also stream live here.

Seventy-five years ago, the United States Marine Band performed a broadcast of the “Patriotic Dream Hour for Shut-ins” over the National Broadcasting Company airwaves at Marine Barracks Washington. That same day, on the other side of the world, brave young men had already charged the enemy through fierce and bloody combat on the black sand of Iwo Jima. Thousands were killed by artillery shells and machine gun fire from the Japanese Army’s fortified and concealed positions. Yet only days into the hellish battle, six Marines raised the flag on the highest point of the volcanic island. Patrons can see that flag on display this weekend at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

“I keep a small vial of sand from Iwo Jima on my desk as a constant reminder of the sacrifices our fellow Marines made at that time in history,” said Assistant Director Capt. Bryan P. Sherlock. “Having served a large portion of my career in the Pacific, I am very aware of the importance of the theater, both then and now. Paying tribute to those incredibly brave warriors who plunged into the water and made their way to that beach under such adverse circumstances and insurmountable odds is humbling and one of my greatest honors.”

In recognition of the veterans of Iwo Jima and all Marines, Capt. Sherlock has crafted a program which memorializes famous campaigns of the Marine Corps, from World War II through the present day. The concert will begin with Fanfare for the Common Man written by American composer Aaron Copland in 1942 as part of a series of wartime fanfares. Following the fanfare, the brass ensemble will perform Uncommon Valor: Images of Iwo Jima and Pride of a People—works weaved together by retired Marine Band arranger Master Sgt. Stephen Bulla. Bulla wrote Uncommon Valor in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famed Battle. The four movements musically portray the arduous journey to the scene of battle, a time of introspection and prayer, and the hostile confrontation with references to The Marines’ Hymn and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Marine Band vocalist Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Bennear will sing Bulla’s arrangement Pride of a People, three songs that have become an integral part of American culture: “This is My Country,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and “My Country ‘tis of Thee.”

The program will also include inspiring works paying tribute to those who fought in the Korean War and Vietnam War. Composer Robert W. Smith dedicated Inchon to his father, Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Smith, who was a veteran of both wars. Inchon was inspired by the first major U.N. force strike in North Korean-occupied territory, with a surprise amphibious assault at Inchon. James Hosay, former arranger for the U.S. Army Band, wrote Black Granite in honor of those who fought in Vietnam. Of his symphonic march Black Granite, Hosay gave this description:

The Vietnam War is an event in U.S. history that is controversial to this day. But let there be no controversy regarding the high level of valor, courage, and honor displayed by the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces during that conflict. Without regard to the politics behind their involvement, they served diligently and to the highest standards of military tradition. Many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice. This march is dedicated to the men and women who died in that war; to those whose heroic deed went unsung, and to those who returned home only to find shattered remnants of what was once their “American Dream.”

Additional highlights include John Philip Sousa’s march “Semper Fidelis,” "Amazing Grace," and Sammy Nestico’s The Marines’ Hymn, Apotheosis.

“The significance of the 75th Anniversary of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima cannot be overstated,” Sherlock said. “Every year we lose more and more of our beloved World War II veterans, and on these special occasions it is only right that we pause to honor those who have gone before us and established the legacy that our Marine Corps upholds today. I can’t wait to honor our predecessors with this music and its meaning.”

The concert is free; no tickets are required. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle, Va. Admission to the museum is free and doors open at 9 a.m. For detailed directions and parking information visit www.usmcmuseum.org.

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