News: 135th Army Band leads the way in St. Patrick’s Day parade
Story by Missouri National Guard
By Sgt. Jacqueline Courtney
ST. LOUIS – Members of the Missouri Army National Guard’s 135th Army Band marched in the St. Louis 45th Metropolitan St. Patrick’s Day Parade here Saturday.
The band, from Springfield, Mo., took its place in the parade’s lead position after playing the Irish and U.S. national anthems.
Individuals of the estimated 250,000 spectators cheered loudly as the 29 band members marched the parade route while consecutively playing "The Army Song" and "American Soldier."
Sgt. 1st Class Erik Whiting, a drum major in the band who led the group in this year’s event, says he is honored to represent the troops and takes great pride in his role.
“We really love coming out to the St. Louis area; it’s a great crowd,” said Whiting. “They’re very patriotic and we’re here to help show support of the troops and to let the American people know their Guard is out with them. This is one of our favorite events and we feel very privileged the governor and adjutant general support us in getting us here.”
Francis Slay, mayor of St. Louis, believes the presence of the military is vital in providing the public with a sense of patriotism.
“People in St. Louis love parades and we have a lot of them,” said Slay. “I certainly want to thank the U.S. military for all their work, thank all of you for your service, and we as beneficiaries of your hard work and your sacrifices cannot express our appreciation enough.”
Patrick McDonough, a longtime member of the parade committee, agreed the military band’s presence makes the event more enjoyable.
“This is a rite of spring and it makes it much better when the United States Army is with us to kick it off,” said McDonough. “We’ve always enjoyed having the military and it makes it that much greater when the participants along the streets can see the military in all their glory, honoring the Irish tradition.”
This year’s parade was comprised of around 150 units, including marching bands, floats, and over 5,000 marchers.
“It’s great to have the Army represented in the parade,” said Slay. “This is an event we enjoy as a community, celebrating our city.”
The mission of the band is to provide music that promotes troop morale, spirit, and civil and military relations in support of military operations. In addition to parade appearances, they spend much of their time playing a variety of events such as the Veiled Prophet Parade, the Inaugural Parade, state fairs, balls, and deployment and homecoming ceremonies.