Members of the 35th Infantry Division Band, the Kansas Army National Guard, stand as they play “The Army Song” during their Memorial Day concert in Leavenworth, Kansas, May 25. (Photo by Capt. Lauren Orr, 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Memorial Day concert honors the fallen

By Capt. Lauren Orr
105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Kansas Army National Guard Public Affairs

There was an atmosphere of patriotic camaraderie in Leavenworth High School the evening of May 25: kids with small American flags, many older attendees sporting shirts, vests, or hats displaying reminders of their military service.

The occasion was the 35th Infantry Division Band’s Memorial Day “A Patriotic Tribute” concert, kicking off the band’s annual summer concert tour across Kansas.

Under the baton of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jim Walker, the band opened the concert with “Abram’s Pursuit,” followed by such hand-clapping, toe-tapping crowd-pleasers as “Armed Forces Medley” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

“As we travel to these small towns we get to go out and recognize those who have served in the military in some fashion and we get to hear some really fascinating stories”, said 1st Sgt. Robert Ball, senior enlisted leader of the band. “Oftentimes we get to recognize those people in a concert and it’s really good for us to give back to our communities, so this tour is really a goodwill gesture from the governor and the adjutant general.”

Although all members of the 35th Infantry Division Band are accomplished musicians, they come from a variety of civilian and military backgrounds

“I actually started in the 226th Engineer as a carpenter, and I got deployed to Iraq in 2003 at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Sgt. First Class Todd Hollis. “I got back and was deciding whether to reenlist when the Kansas Army National Guard band came to my hometown in Augusta, Kansas.”

Hollis works as a band director in Augusta in both the high school and elementary school and was asked by the 35th Infantry Division Band to direct the band at one of their concerts.

“I got up there and I really liked how that felt and enjoyed the people who I talked to, so I transferred to the band.”

Trombone player Sgt. Brett Bohmann enjoys the unique opportunities the Army National Guard affords him.

“I joined the National Guard in 2010 with the band and at that time I was actually studying music in college,” said Bohmann. “Later, I decided to pursue my doctor of pharmacy degree and the Army helped me continue to pay for college.

“Now I work for the Topeka VA Medical Center as a pharmacist and the band allowed me to continue playing the trombone and pursue my music career in a unique way that I don’t think is available outside of this avenue.

“I would definitely recommend the band,” said Bohmann. “There are great opportunities to have (college) tuition covered and for student loan repayment for people who have already gone through school. It’s a good way to branch out in your social and professional networks and there are lots of people who can serve as mentors and help guide you in your career.”