HONOLULU – Marines in the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band marched in the 11th annual Prince Kuhio Commemoration Parade, March 23, 2013.
The parade celebrated the contributions of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who was the founder of the Hawaiian Civic Club and propelled the passing of the Hawaiian Homestead Act of 1921. The purpose of this act was to give native Hawaiians their own land. Prince Kuhio was the first Hawaiian to be elected to U.S. Congress.
Among the parade of floats, abundance of food vendors and entertainment, the MarForPac Band serenaded crowds as it marched down Kalakaua Avenue. The band played various tunes, the most recognized song being the “Marines’ Hymn.” The crowds cheered and applauded the Marines, and some in the audience removed their ball caps in respect until the song ended.
For some veterans, seeing the MarForPac Band playing was more than just entertainment. Walter and Myrtle Powers, WWII veterans, and residents of Priest Lake, Idaho, attended the parade and were overjoyed to see the Marines. Walter served as a Navy corpsman at a Marine air base in Goleta, Calif., alongside his wife, Myrtle, who served as a dietitian in the Marines.
“I served in the Marines, and I love the Marine Corps to this day,” Myrtle Powers said. “It thrills me to see the Marines marching in the parade.” The MarForPac Band Marines warmed up before marching to ensure their instruments were shined, tuned and ready to perform.
“We’re in paradise, but it’s not just a vacation for us,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brad Rehrig, drum major for the MarForPac Band and a native of Lehighton, Pa. “We usually do at least 10 parades throughout the year because tourists are a brand-new audience and we have to make sure we sound as good as we look.”
Tourists visiting Hawaii gathered along the street to watch the parade as it ran through the heart of Honolulu and passed Prince Kuhio’s statue near Kapiolani Park. As the parade passed the statue, participants in the parade handed leis to the crowd to place around the statue as a token of respect.
“The Marine Corps is all about building community relations with the locals,” Rehrig said. “Connecting with the locals helps us to be able to play at more events and bring music to the community around us.”
After the MarForPac Band marched past the statue, kids crowded the sidewalks taking last-minute photos of the band before ending their march. The band was given the command to fall out, and children shouted “ooh-rah” at the Marines as they walked toward their bus to disassemble their instruments.
“It’s amazing to see the Marines are still serving proudly,” Walter Powers said. “The Marines were doing great things when I served during the war and they’re doing great things now.”