VILNIUS, Lithuania – The 1st Infantry Division Band participated in the Lithuanian Military Tattoo 2022 on Aug. 27-28 here. A military tattoo is a festival of bands, and in this case, all are NATO allies who have come together to make music. The Big Red One military band represented the U.S. as ten military orchestras from Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Germany played music for all who attended.
“The 1st Infantry Division Band was invited to attend by the Lithuanian Armed Forces,” said Warrant Officer Cena Duran, bandmaster, and commander of the 1st ID Band. “It was a general-to-general conversation about how we could contribute to this significant event and whether or not we were available. And now we're here.”
The word “tattoo” comes from the Dutch saying “doe den tap toe,” meaning ‘it’s time to turn off the taps.” It was a signal to pub owners to close down for the day and for soldiers to return to their barracks. Eventually, the original meaning became lost, and it became a literal call by drummers and trumpeters, which became a festival of military bands traditionally organized in the summer. These festivals are celebrated all over the world. This tattoo is the first time that other countries have been invited to Vilnius to perform in Cathedral Square.
“This is the first time that Lithuania has opened its doors to share this type of event with other nations,” said Duran. “So it's an honor to be able to expand on the interoperability of our forces -- not just from a warfighter standpoint, but from the ambassador side of our forces as well.”
The festival is held at the end of August to commemorate 29 years since the last Russian soldier left Lithuania at 23:46 on August 31, 1993.
The two-day event kicked off with a parade of each military band marching towards Cathedral Square. As formations of bands from various countries prepared to march, a barefoot little Ukrainian boy perched close to a drum belonging to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Gerasch, which he had placed on the ground. As the boy inched closer and closer, Gerasch gave him a nod, signifying that playing was okay. He picked up the sticks and began to bang on the drum.
“We didn’t know about the parade, we were on our way home and passed by to see all the bands in the square,” said the boy’s mother, Maria, as she showed goosebumps on her arms. “Right now we're safe and I don't have to worry about my son. The orchestra evoked many emotions in one moment. It was alarming to me, as if it were a sign of war to see so many military in one place, and at another moment it was like a celebratory sign of victory. The musicians were so beautiful and disciplined. The whole picture was very bright for my heart.”
Hundreds of people gathered along the parade route, clapping to the music and cheering, “USA!” One man recording the band passing by on his phone gave the band a silent ‘thumbs up.’ The Big Red One band entered Cathedral Square, marching behind other NATO military bands with more than 2,000 people gathered to watch the performances in the makeshift amphitheater.
During the opening performance with all ten bands, there was a video message from Lithuanian President Gitan Nausėda, where he discussed the importance of this military festival. “Even today, the sounds of music retain the power to gather and unite us for new journeys,” he said.
Soon after, the colors of the Ukrainian flag came up on the screens, and the entire group of NATO bands began to play an original piece by Donatas Bukauskas called “Prayer for Peace.” This composer wrote the piece specifically to remember the war in Ukraine.
Each band took 20 minutes to present a concert in Cathedral Square the following afternoon. They all went to a dinner where members of each NATO band talked about music and culture, a perfect place for interoperability to grow within friendships made.
“I think that the First Infantry Division band's presence here is a great opportunity for us to nest the strategic messaging of our leadership,” said Duran. “We're ambassadors for our country, offering a more peaceful presentation of military force. And so it enables our leaders to discuss and engage with leaders of other nations. So, not only are we excited to be here, but I think our presence is significant.”