Utah National Guard Hosts

50th Annual Veterans Day Concert

 

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Written by Col. Craig Morgan and Maj. Hank McIntire

Published December 6, 2005

       

The 23rd Army Band, foreground, and the combined Granite School District high school choirs perform for veterans and families Nov. 11.

Photo by Spc. Samantha Xanthos

The 23rd Army Band, foreground, and the combined Granite School District high school choirs perform for veterans and families Nov. 11.

SALT LAKE CITY The Utah National Guard honored veterans of all services again this year with a concert held at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center Nov. 11.

The concert marked the 50th year of this annual event and showcased the 23rd Army Band, led by Chief Warrant Officer J. Mike Cottam, and the combined high school choirs from Granite School District.

The first concert in the series was held in 1955, and the event is the longest, continuously running Veterans Day celebration in the nation.

Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Tech. Sgt. Sterling Poulson, a local television personality and member of the Utah Air National Guard. KUED Television produced the program for tape-delay broadcast on Channel 7 and for rebroadcast on the Armed Forces Network.

Dancers from Utah Valley State present a big-band dance number at the 50th Annual Veterans Day concert sponsored by the Utah National Guard.

Photo by Spc. Samantha Xanthos

Dancers from Utah Valley State present a big-band dance number at the 50th Annual Veterans Day concert sponsored by the Utah National Guard.

The program featured musical selections which have been presented by the band and the choir over the past 50 years.

Songs included instrumental and vocal solos, and the audience was also treated to a dance number featuring the Utah Valley State Dance Team dressed as World War II Sailors, Soldiers and nurses.

During a special presentation, Millard County Sheriff Ed Phillips received the Pro Patria award, presented to him by Utah Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Chairman Brig. Gen. (Ret.) James Martin.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Carter, Alpha Battery, 1-145th Field Artillery, nominated Phillips for the award for the tremendous support the sheriff's office, Carter's civilian employer, provided to him during his deployment to Iraq.

Commander in Chief of the Utah National Guard Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., keynoted the concert with some brief remarks to thank veterans old and new for their service.

Air Force veterans in the audience stand as their Service's song, "Wild Blue Yonder," is played at the concert.

Photo by Spc. Samantha Xanthos

Air Force veterans in the audience stand as their Service's

song, "Wild Blue Yonder," is played at the concert.

Huntsman paid tribute to World War II Veterans Ray Casaday and Marvin Mower, and Vietnam prisoner of war Jay Jensen.

"They, along with thousands of other Utahns, have served and sacrificed for our nation and continue to do so," he said.

To those serving today, Huntsman added, "Since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, our deployment numbers are the highest in the history of the Utah National Guard. On behalf of a very grateful state, please accept deep thanks and appreciation."

One of the traditional highlights of the evening was the playing of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard songs. Master of Ceremonies Poulson invited veterans present to stand while their Service’s song was played. The audience erupted with applause as Service members old and young stood for their song.

The evening also provided plenty of excitement for members of the combined choir. First-timer Oyoyo Bonner, a sophomore at Cyprus High School, was one of three soloists for the song, “So Many Voices.” She was in awe of the pageantry and tribute to veterans.

Sgt. 1st Class Ron Stevens, plays a violin solo, "Irish Tune from County Derry," at the Veterans Day concert Nov. 11.

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Greg Cullis

Sgt. 1st Class Ron Stevens plays a violin solo, "Irish Tune

 from County Derry," at the Veterans Day concert Nov. 11.

“I’ve never done anything like this before. It felt good to be a part of it,” Bonner said after the concert. “Our veterans have done so much for us. I appreciate their sacrifice.”

And band members expressed appreciation for what the choir adds to the concert each year. Sgt. Randy Cox, tuba player with the 23rd Army Band, said it’s very rewarding to accompany the choir every year, but this year’s event took on even more meaning for him personally.

“I’m dedicating this year’s concert to my brother serving in the Middle East as a member of the Naval Reserve,” Cox said.

Adding a not-so-typical element to a brass-band concert, Sgt. 1st Class Ron Stevens, Joint Forces Headquarters, Utah National Guard, played a beautiful and stirring violin solo, “Irish Tune from County Derry,” more popularly known as “Danny Boy.”

A veteran himself, Stevens deployed with the 144th Evacuation Hospital during Desert Storm. He has played the violin for more than 50 years and has performed as a soloist at the Tabernacle at Temple Square.

Stevens received a standing ovation and was coaxed into performing an encore number, “Romance,” with his daughter, Teresa Stevens Winder, at the piano.

Members of the 23rd Army Band show their versatility by singing the songs of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines.

Photo by Spc. Samantha Xanthos

Members of the 23rd Army Band show their versatility by singing the songs of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines.

"It was a real honor to perform with Teresa in this special setting. As a veteran myself, I know what it feels like to be away from home and family," Stevens said. "It was also fun to see the looks on many of my Guard colleagues' faces who had no idea that I played the violin."

The concert concluded with “Taps,” played by 1st Sgt. David Krueger, followed by the two concert staples over the years, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Ray Casaday, mentioned by the governor in his remarks, was a Marine who was wounded in the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943 in World War II. He was in attendance at the concert for the first time. He summed up for his fellow Utah veterans what it meant to have this honor paid to them.

“I loved it,” Casaday said. “It was a wonderful tribute.”