Members of the DeLand High School Marching Bulldogs and DeLand Emeralds Color Guard traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to represent DeLand, Volusia County and Florida in the National Memorial Day Parade.
On a rainy Memorial Day May 29, students marched nearly 2 miles past monuments and museums performing the song “Armed Forces on Parade,” a tune including snippets of the service songs of the various military branches.
In total, parade organizers said, around 5,000 marchers took to the streets around the Capitol, and some 200,000 viewers attended the parade.
For some of the students who traveled for the parade, it was their first time in Washington, D.C., and marching in the Memorial Day parade was a lot different than marching up and down Woodland Boulevard.
“It was a very memorable trip,” 10th-grader Tyler Okunor told The Beacon. “We hear in school about wars and things like that, but when you’re actually in front of a memorial for people who served in those wars and all the sacrifices made, it really pulls the emotion out of you. And it’s hard to keep it in.”
As one of the marching band’s drum majors, Okunor marches at the front of the band and helps keep them in time.
Another student who went on the trip was fellow drum major Jaquavion Gaines.
Like Okunor, it was his first time in D.C. too, and the 11th-grader loved all the opportunities to learn.
“I really loved the Holocaust Museum. It was very touching,” he said. “The National Museum of American History was awesome also.”
In total, the trip to D.C. was a five-day affair, so students had the chance to do a lot more than just participate in the parade.
“My students got to experience things many of them have only learned about in their classes,” Band Director Monica Leimer said.
The students visited museums and Arlington National Cemetery and even had the opportunity to lay flowers on the tomb of The Unknown Soldier, a tomb at Arlington with the remains of unidentified American servicemen who served in World War I and other conflicts.
The DeLand students also had the opportunity to hear other bands, like the National Symphony Orchestra and several Marine bands.
“My students got to really understand what Memorial Day is,” Leimer said. “A lot of them, it’s just a day you don’t have to go to school.”
All in all, she said the experience — for her and her students — was a great one.
The full parade is available to watch online on YouTube at www.youtu.be/fjLCi3RIJ5w. The DeLand High Band can be seen beginning at the 1:42:30 mark.