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The U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps performs during the celebration ceremony for the unit's 75th anniversary, Nov. 13, at Marine Barracks Washington.

Photo by Cpl. Jacob H. Harrer

U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps celebrates 75th Anniversary

4 Nov 2009 | Cpl. Jacob H. Harrer

Marines, veterans, and friends celebrated the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps with a ceremony hosted by Gen. James T. Conway, 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, at Marine Barracks Washington, Nov. 4.

Conway presented the D&B with a congratulatory certificate signed by every living commandant of the Marine Corps.

Sgt. Joshua D. Miles, D&B narrator, recounted the history of the drummer and buglers in the Marine Corps, from their service as a communication element on the battle field to the duty bugler on ships. The D&B created a music video synchronized to “Birth of a Drum Corps,” which the unit performed live for the audience. The music was timed flawlessly as the movie displayed the D&B performing at venues around the nation.

The ceremony drew supporters from various armed services from around the world. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Joe Tersero, bassoonist from the U.S. Air Force Band, came out to the event to support his fellow military musicians. He was introduced to the D&B through Chief Warrant Officer Brian J. Dix, D&B director.

The stick technique of the percussionists to the playing of the brass players… it’s right up there with the top professional drum and bugle corps in the world,” Tersero said.

“What we’ve seen these folks do under [current] leadership over the years has been amazing,” Conway said.

The D&B started an idea conceived by Capt. Lemuel C. Shepherd, former MBW guard officer and later 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 75 short years, the D&B has become an elite body of musicians representing the Marine Corps around the world, travelling more than 60,000 miles each year, Conway said.     

When the D&B was first formed, the unit was comprised of an underfunded group of musicians who practiced drumming on inner tubes and road tires in order to save money and preserve their drums, said Lt. Col. Brent Harrison, D&B commanding officer.

The D&B did not have buses to taxi them to events, said Harrison. Their first road trip was to the Milk Festival in Manassas, Va., in 1935. The Marines marched with rucksacks and instruments to the train station, where they caught a train to Manassas and boarded a bus to the fair ground. When the bus broke down, the Marines marched miles to their destination, where they camped out and performed for four days before returning to Washington.

“Rigorous schedules… buses breaking down… it’s good to know that some things haven’t changed,” said Harrison.

Marines from the D&B still train each year through rigorous physical fitness tests and rifle qualifications. Recently, Sgt. Nathan Morris and Sgt. Michelle Mayo returned from a four-month deployment to Iraq. Their ability to put down their instruments and pick up their rifles truly makes them unique among military musicians around the world.

“They are indeed Marines in every sense from their bearing, training, and professionalism to the unparalleled sense of pride and service to their Corps,” said Col. Andrew H. Smith, MBW commanding officer.