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Marines assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band play “Anchors Aweigh” to former U.S. Navy service members before a parade in New Orleans, Feb. 26, 2017. The 2nd MAW Band attended the Mardi Gras celebrations where they provided music for the spectators during multiple parades. The parades allowed the band to be the face of the Marine Corps while interacting with observers. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons

Mardi Gras welcomes the 2nd MAW Band

7 Mar 2017 | Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

Thousands of people dressed in colorful costumes and clothing  covered the roads during the annual New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations.

Mardi Gras is held yearly for people to enjoy their lives to the fullest before the upcoming Christian observance of Lent, a 40 day period starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday where Christians choose to give up something they cherish as a way of “fasting,” to emulate Jesus’ 40 day fast before Easter.

These individuals travel from all over the world to be a part of the Mardi Gras festivities. Among the many different groups who attended this year’s festivities was the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band.

“We are pretty much here to be the face of the Marine Corps,” said Sgt. Sean Salazar, musician in the 2nd MAW band. “We are basically representing Marines past, present, and who can’t be there who are forward deployed.”

Before each parade, the crowd grew increasingly quiet as the 2nd MAW band started the procession off with the national anthem. After that, an explosion of applause would erupt as the Marines stepped off and began marching down the crowded streets of New Orleans.

As the band approached different crowds throughout the parade, they were met with rounds of applause. Throughout the deafening screams you could hear the repeated expressions of gratitude shouted toward the Marines.

 “We have a great group of Marines,” said Salazar. “People say thank you for what you do and your service and a lot of times people take that for granted but they’re not really only thanking us but they are thanking the entire Marine Corps.”

“That one handshake that they give to us is like giving 50 other Marines that handshake,” said Salazar.

The band played from a large repertoire of music during the parades, which included traditional Mardi Gras music such as “Bourbon Street” and “Rampart Street Parade.” The band played the Marines’ Hymn and other classics as well.

The band would periodically stop throughout the parade and perform different demonstrations for the crowd. During this time is when the spectators got to intermingle with the Marines.

“It gets kind of crazy,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Dalton, a saxophone player in the band. “Everybody wants to be able to get a picture with you, everybody wants to talk with you. It’s only times when we actually stop that we interact with the crowds around us.”

“It’s quite a special thing to be able to talk with some of the folks that have never seen a Marine before,” said Dalton.

As the Marines marched down the congested streets, people of all walks of life, ethnicities and cultures cheered.

As the parade ended, the tired Marines, still with smiles on their faces, loaded up the bus and can only wait until the next opportunity to showcase their abilities and represent the Marine Corps. Until then, the Marines will do what they do best and practice and until they perfect their profession.

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