DARIEN, Ill. - Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, has come to signify a solemn day to pay tribute to military members. It is also a day of much remembrance and celebration.

The 85th Army Band commemorated the day by bringing their community, veterans and previous band members together for night of music and patriotic spirit.

"We worked for several months to put this production together to honor and recognize local veterans," said Warrant Officer 2 Kimberly Ferrante, executive officer, 85th Army Band.

Each member of the band worked on portions of the production for several months and then they put together the pieces.

"Reserve soldiers we are only here one weekend a month and every drill weekend we would put the pieces together. It's a test of our strength and spirit," Ferrante said.

The concert took months of preparation involving many people.

Some former band members came from far distances to be at the nights' event. Retirees' families came, too. This band has a huge heritage and a history within the state, region and midwestern community.

"Our family is the key component for our success in the military for the familial support that allows us to serve," said Ferrante.

One former band member who showed at the event was 16-year veteran Staff Sgt. Carrie Castillo. She received notice and new she had to reunite with her former band mates.

"I joined the band in 2005 after an audition process. I got notice of the audition when I was at battle assembly as a cook with the 327th MP Battalion," said Castillo, "a Master Sgt. came out and made an announcement asking if anyone played an instrument. I was the only one in a group of 15 that raised my hand."

Castillo joined the Army to be part of the legacy in her family. Her paternal grandfather served in the Army during the end of WWII, her maternal grandfather served in the Army during the Korean Conflict, a cousin who served in the Army and a great-uncle who retired as a Colonel after 35 years in the Air Force.

She joined the Army for her family heritage and for herself.

"Of all of my family members, I have served the longest time in the Army. I also wanted the benefits of tuition assistance, and to be able to travel around the country and possibly around the world," said Castillo.
What Castillo got was an extended family within the band.

"I played the flute and piccolo with the band from August 2005 to September 2011. Additionally, I have always had a passion for photography and writing. While I was in the band I was the appointed Unit Public Affairs Representative. I enjoyed doing this, and wanted to pursue it further," said Castillo.

Much like the other members in the 85th Army Band, she loved playing music and giving back to the community. This was part of the experience.

The reunion was another topping on a sundae making it a sweeter experience.

"It felt like I was home. I was immediately welcomed with hugs, big smiles, and handshakes," Castillo said, "it was almost as if I had not been gone for almost five years. It was great seeing the other alumni and those that are still with the band from when I was there."

The event was used to honor Soldiers as well. Two Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dorothy Such and Mark Laska, were promoted and another memorable part of the reunion was honoring a World War II veteran who is the grandfather of one of the band members. Warrant Officer 3 James Walker, commander, 85th Army Band, promoted Norman Pardys to an honorary Sergeant with his granddaughter and grandson-in-law by his side.

Ferrante added, "It was an honor to be here and it was great to have everybody with the community understand why we do this. We wouldn't be as with that."