By Larry Stevens, FORSCOM Public Affairs OfficeApril 4, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (April 4, 2012) Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, officiated a ceremony in which he presented a Purple Heart to Master Sgt. James K. Freeman and administered the Oath of Enlistment to 11 Soldiers of The Army Ground Forces Band today.
While traveling by ground convoy from Contingency Operating Base Basra to Camp Bucca, Iraq, on July 3, 2010, then-Sgt. 1st Class Freeman, a Musical Performance Team Leader assigned to the 1st Infantry Division band, was aboard a Cougar Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle with other band members and the Convoy Support Element Team.
Approximately one kilometer from Camp Bucca, their vehicle was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device that wounded several Soldiers, including Freeman.
Despite the wounds suffered by several Soldiers requiring immediate medical treatment and evacuation, the concussive effects of the IED blast and the immediate psychological trauma of the combat action, Freeman and the other Army bandsmen continued on to Camp Bucca and accomplished their mission before returning--by ground convoy--to Contingency Operating Base Basra.
"This is a great day to honor Master Sgt. Freeman," Rodriguez said, "I don't know about you, but most people would not be thinking after an IED strike about going on with the mission of playing a musical instrument to keep the spirits up of the Soldiers."
The band commander, Maj. Treg E. Ancelet, observed, "Master Sgt. Freeman is a fine French horn player who could have taken a different and safer musical road in life. But fate and love of his country drew him to the higher cause of fulfilling the mission of boosting the morale of our fellow troops."
"I'm honored and extremely humbled by this award," said Freeman, a 20-year Army veteran from Ulster Park, N.Y. "The most important thing is that it lets people know that Army bandsmen do put themselves in harm's way. We don't just play concerts in the park. When I was in Iraq, we did more than 400 missions outside the wire."
The re-enlisting Soldiers pledged again "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," as well as "bear true faith and allegiance to the same" and obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over them.
"Knowing what sacrifices and obstacles can be faced, the 11 Soldiers standing next to Master Sgt. Freeman are prepared to continue this band's legacy of selfless service and devotion to duty," Ancelet said.
"Re-enlistment is a big day for them and a big day for the Army," Rodriguez noted. "And we don't just re-enlist Soldiers; we re-enlist their Families. I thank them for the incredible sacrifice and service they and their Families make on behalf of each and every one of us and our Families and our nation."
The re-enlisting Soldiers are as follows: Staff Sgt. Matthew Tanner (saxophone and vocalist), Sgt. William Hyman (tuba and euphonium), Sgt. Ryan Kaluza (percussion), Sgt. Paul McCracken (piano and keyboard), Sgt. Daniel Mesa (trombone), Sgt. Paul Saunders (saxophone), Sgt. Jonathan Scheibler (percussion), Spc. Anthony Licata Jr. (French horn), Spc. Sheila Luta (flute and piccolo), Spc. Justin Mabrey (trumpet), and Spc. Jonathan Parke (tuba).
The Army Ground Forces Band travels the nation, performing at local, regional and national events. The band also conducts master classes and clinics for music students at high schools and colleges throughout the country.
The 64 Soldiers assigned to The Army Ground Forces Band have passed highly selective auditions and are among the finest musicians in the Army Band Program. The majority of the band's members have studied music at some of the finest universities and conservatories.
The band's parent unit, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), is the Army's largest command. As the Army force provider, it prepares conventional operating forces to provide a sustained flow of trained and ready land power to combatant commanders in defense of the nation at home and abroad.
For more on The Army Ground Force Band, see www.forscom.army.mil/band.