NEW YORK - The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and Band made history when they set foot in New York for the largest deployment of 11th Operations Group assets as part of the 2012 Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for the very first time.
The 200-person formation marched in front of a live audience of more than three million and a televised audience of 55 million viewers for the 86th annual event.
"The experience was very exciting with so many people who came out to watch an important part of Americana here in New York," said Master Sgt. Jake McKray, USAF Band saxophonist. "It's important that the military is represented at this event and I'm very thankful to do so for all Airmen serving in the U.S. and at deployed locations around the world."
Following a 2.65-mile march through the city streets, the honor guard and band performers showcased a patriotic tribute titled "This is My Country", conducted by USAF Band Commander Col. Larry Lang, on the NBC main stage in Herald Square.
The Air Force song bounced between the skyscrapers of New York as the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team demonstrated precision through weapon drills followed by the sleek stature of the colors team presenting the U.S. flag. A formation of armed honor guardsmen, led by USAF Honor Guard Commander Lt. Col. Kenneth Marentette, marched seamlessly for all to see.
"Marching in the parade and being part of the first team from the 11th OG was a great experience," said Airman 1st Class Kamiron Smith, USAF Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman. "I'm the first of my family to join the military and it's a great opportunity to represent them as well as the U.S. Air Force."
The USAF Band and Honor Guard regularly perform for officials at the highest levels of government and military. Almost daily, the units serve in Arlington National Cemetery, rendering funeral honors to our nation's fallen heroes. Through public appearances, the two units inspire patriotism and foster a positive image of the USAF.
The 11th Operations Group Commander Col. Gina Humble shared how proud she was of the Airmen serving in the Honor Guard and Band. "You all played a vital role in making this happen; over the past year and through the finish today," said Humble. "We are one team--one fight."
The 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade brought many spectators' patriotic cheers and applause as each honor guard and band member marched by.
"We all had a blast and are proud to serve our country," said Smith. We came out and accomplished exactly what we set out to do, we looked sharp and I hope we can come back and do this again in the future."