What do drum corps and Iraqi war veterans have in common?

by Phillip Capers

In Dallas on the weekend of July 17, I had the opportunity to experience what makes America great and separates us from all the other countries in the world, at least in my opinion. I work for a chartered transportation company, Wynne MotorCoaches, LLC, which is enjoying the privilege of providing chartered transportation services for several DCI drum corps during the 2009 competition season.

Last year, we were fortunate to be asked to provide transportation services for the Bell Helicopter — Armed Forces Bowl, which is held in Fort Worth, TX, at Texas Christian University’s (TCU) Amon Carter Stadium. In particular, we were asked to transport returning soldiers and families from Ft. Hood and Brooks Army Medical Center in Texas to the football game. For those who don’t know, Brooks is where the most seriously burned soldiers receive their care. During this project, we met Mike Nashif of the Combat Warrior Crisis Network (http://www.combatwarriorcrisisnetwork.org).

Mike is a decorated vet, returning from the Iraqi conflict. In talking with Mike, we discovered that he and several other returning vets had started the CWCN for the sole purpose of re-integrating or transitioning the frontline guardians of America from a war environment into everyday life. Two of the CWCN sister organizations are “Take a Soldier Fishing” and “Take a Soldier Hunting.”

After our meeting, our team at Wynne adopted CWCN at the company’s “pet” charity. During the last eight months, we have moved hundreds of returning vets and their families to multiple venues, from fishing at Marble Falls, TX, to last year’s TCU vs. Texas football game in Austin, TX.

As Wynne became more involved with different Drum Corps International units, I became more convinced that a drum corps competition was a perfect venue for these guys and gals, and their families. Late in the week before the Dallas competition at the Lake Highlands Highland School, I received confirmation that CWCN had 50 vets who wanted to attend the competition. I had the equipment, but not the tickets.

I immediately contacted Fred Morrison of the Crossmen and asked him how I could secure a block of 50 tickets to the show. Fred said, “I will get this handled for you.” He then contacted Dan Acheson, DCI’s executive director. After two e-mails, I had secured 50 assigned-seat tickets for the competition. However, my platoon of soldiers and family had swelled to 60 people.

While standing outside the ticket office and pondering my dilemma of how to get 60 people inside the stadium with 50 tickets, a person came up to me and anonymously purchased the remaining 10 assigned-seat tickets.

So what is the answer to my question, “What do drum corps and Iraqi vets have in common?” The answer is very simple — they both have camaraderie. They are prime examples of the buddy system, “one for all and all for one.”

They share a special form of Espirit de Corps. They are dedicated to their mission’s final purpose. They are, in my opinion, the best examples of the American tradition of work, sacrifice and sharing.

I am grateful for the experience of knowing both groups of young people.

Lastly, I cannot thank Dan Acheson and Fred Morrison enough for making this event happen. I know 60 people who yelled a big whoorah to both of these people.