287th Army Band Brings Holiday Cheer in Honor of Delaware Guard Families

By Spc. Robert L. Jones
Det. 1, 444th Mobile Public Affairs

News story photo
The 287th Army Band played during their fourth annual holiday concert at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.
As America engages herself in the war on terrorism fifteen months after September 11, 2001, more than 250 Delaware National Guard soldiers and airmen are spending this holiday season deployed an ocean away, separated from their families and friends. But, they haven’t been left behind.

In recognition of the sacrifices made by the Delaware National Guard, this year’s fourth annual holiday concert by Delaware’s own 287th Army Band at the Grand Opera House here has been dedicated to the Guard’s family members, whose sacrifices have been no less important.

Chief Warrant Officer Charles E. Hockersmith, commander of the 287th, was especially enthusiastic about the concert.

"I’ve been with the 287th Band since 1978 and have been commander for 22 years. It’s always a great pleasure to do this concert for the military community and our state. This year it’s for the families."

After an ensemble of saxophonists warmed up the near-capacity audience with a capella renditions of traditional carols, emcee Dave Skocik introduced Delaware National Guard’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, Jr. Vavala dedicated the concert to the Guard’s family members for the "sacrifices you make every day." Before the concert, Vavala commented: "We need to remember our families here at home who will be separated from loved ones. Hopefully this concert will brighten their holidays."

He then introduced the night’s guest of honor, Army Col. H. Ted Harcke, Delaware’s State Surgeon, who volunteered for a ninety-day tour of duty in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Vavala lauded Harcke’s devotion to duty.

"Colonel Harcke is a great American, West Point graduate and physician. He volunteered to serve in Afghanistan….and fought the bureaucracy to serve our soldiers." Harcke presented Vavala with an American flag troops flew over the U.S. headquarters in Bagram, Afghanistan, during this year’s Veterans’ Day observances.

Hockersmith and the band’s First Sergeant, 1st Sgt. James G. Snyder shared conducting duties, leading the band in special arrangements of many holiday favorites, such as "Let It Snow," "The First Noel," and a medley of songs from the "Peanuts" Christmas special.

At the request of Vavala – who revived the tradition of the holiday concerts when he assumed command of the Delaware National Guard – the band ended the concert with a stirring rendition of John Philip Sousa’s patriotic march "Stars and Stripes Forever," dedicated to Delaware’s soldiers serving overseas.

The 287th’s performances drew repeated applause from the audience. Concert-goer Jonathan Smith of Wilmington – who braved the freezing weather "to come out and support our troops" – remarked "Delaware is fortunate to have such a talented ensemble of musicians. It means a lot that through their music, the Guard is giving back so much to our families and communities."

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