BELMONT, Mich. – The 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard, commonly called the "Governor's Own," has been entertaining the residents, service members, and veterans of Michigan for decades. The band provides a full spectrum of musical support that enhances the morale, motivation, and esprit de corps while fostering public trust and promoting our national interests."We support events throughout Michigan for both Army and Air National Guard," said Army Sgt. First Class Jane Montgomery, readiness noncommissioned officer (NCO), 126th Army Band, Michigan Army National Guard. "We try to affect Guard members in all aspects of their career by supporting them with different ceremonies such as promotions, graduations, and retirements."Even when service members have completed military service, the band still finds ways to support veterans."We perform in the communities we live and serve and always pay tribute to the veterans in the audience, said Montgomery. "We get a lot of people on their feet and waving the American flag."The 38-member band has a variety of ensembles, including jazz, brass, rock band, and concert band, which encompasses all the groups."Normally, we perform at the veteran's homes in the state, but this year has been different due to COVID-19," said Montgomery. "We have not been allowed inside the homes where we typically have a brass quintet perform in their dining facility and entertain the veterans while they eat.""Historically, we have performed at the veteran's homes in Marquette and Grand Rapids and the Veterans Affairs hospitals in Battle Creek and Detroit," she added.The band doesn't always need its instruments to serve the community. During the pandemic, they had a unique opportunity to give back by working in a local food bank."Most of the volunteers in the Feeding America food bank consists of community members who are in a high-risk category," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kimberly Ferrante, commander, 126th Army Band, Michigan Army National Guard. "Due to the mandatory stay-at-home order, these individuals' labor was no longer available to Feeding America."Michigan's sole Army National Guard band stepped in to assist."As the executive order extended over several weeks, the need at the warehouse continued to climb," said Ferrante. "Our 15-member team produced the same level of output as their daily 40-50 person volunteers.""This powerful labor force also allowed a concentration of work within a minimal number of laborers, which allowed the warehouse to practice appropriate social distancing while accomplishing the mission, ensuring the safety of their in-house operations staff and reduced the possibility of virus spread," she said.As performers, these Soldiers represented the National Guard mission of Always Ready, Always There."Over their time at Feeding America, the team processed over 1.5 million pounds of product. These included preparing warehouse orders, picking pallets of orders to service other distribution sites, packaging whole food products, sorting donations, packing emergency food boxes, and attending and running mobile food drives," said Ferrante. "Additionally, they provided feedback on the production processes, improving the warehouse's efficiency and organization.""They consistently supported mobile food drives around Kent County, meeting the needs of thousands of local families, school children, and community organizations in the area while their presence provided a positive connection with local organizations."Band performers can often have different experiences and memories from giving back. One member has been performing for 17 years and recalled a first-time experience at a recent performance."This year's annual training was different from others due to the COVID-19 pandemic as we played in smaller groups for retirement communities," said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Schmidt, supply NCO, 126th Army Band, Michigan Army National Guard. "We finished our set and as we were getting ready to leave, the veterans started singing God Bless America back to us, showing their appreciation for what we did for them.""I can't tell you how touching that was to get that kind of appreciation for the performance," he said.During the pandemic, the band also found a way to give back to the medical community. In one day, the band traveled to Muskegon, Holland, Grand Haven, Saugatuck, and Byron Center."We recently performed for local hospital employees and because of COVID, we cut the band down to smaller groups," said Montgomery. "We had two groups of 12 perform at local hospitals and nursing homes standing while band members were outside and the residents were inside.""While at the hospital, the band performed across the street and played at shift change to catch as many workers heading into or leaving work for the day.""Since we can't gather a crowd due to COVID, we went to them," she said.Through public performances, the 126th Army Band inspires patriotism and enhances public relations. Other band members say the experience moves them for the performances they do."It's enriching and emotionally touching when you see how much they appreciate what you've just done," said Schmidt. "When someone comes up to you afterward and lets you know how much they appreciate what you've just done, that's when it touches you back.""That's what makes it so special," the former traffic management coordinator-turned percussionist in the jazz band said.Being in the band also brings a sense of giving back, especially with the various social distancing policies in place due to COVID-19."Just knowing you're helping an individual in a crisis is a great thing. It does help with morale and esprit de corps," said Schmidt. "To know what you're a part of is helping people out there, whether it's through a performance or distributing food when you see the outcome of that, that's when it touches you."For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDCU.S. responseWhite House-CDC response