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NEWS | July 6, 2022

Michigan Army National Guard band brings harmony to Portage

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

The Michigan National Guard’s band performed a public concert in Portage on June 30 as part of their summer tour rotation, enhancing patriotism across the state. The 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard, located in Belmont and commonly referred to as the “Governor’s Own,” has a variety of ensembles that include jazz, brass, rock, and concert bands, to enhance public relations in the Great Lake state.

“We provide music throughout unified land operations to instill in our forces the will to fight and win, to foster the support of our citizens, and to promote our national interests at home and abroad,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Hurban, readiness noncommissioned officer for the band. “This year, our focus is to play music by artists that have a military background or ties to the military.”

Portage is a close-knit community with more than 49,000 residents and is one of two major cities located in Kalamazoo County. Having the band perform is something that city of Portage leadership wanted to bring to the residents.

“We are proud to host the 126th Army Band of the Michigan National Guard in Portage on the Overlander Bandshell stage,” said Acting City Manager Adam Herringa. “We appreciated experiencing the music, time-honored tradition, and hearing about the rich history of the band.”

This fiscal year has proven to be a success for the band with numerous performances for many audiences.

“We have totaled more than 50 missions that have produced audiences well over 100,000 people,” said Hurban. “In addition to public concerts, we also perform at pro sporting events where we send vocalists to sing the Star-Spangled Banner.”

During the Portage performance, more than 500 concert-goers were able to experience the band. One Marine Corps Vietnam veteran reflected on what the band meant to him.

“Some of the songs they played like Jimi Hendrix were Vietnam-era songs and brought back memories from my time there,” said Jerry Works. “The band played at the American Legion Post earlier in the week and was invited to come here today.”

Seeing other veterans there was also recognized by the former force reconnaissance Marine.

“There is one thing about veterans, it doesn’t matter what your branch of service is, we are all brothers and never meet a veteran who is a stranger,” said Works.

Another resident who has ties to the military enjoyed listening to the band perform.

“I have close friends and family members currently serving and seeing the Michigan Army National Guard Band brought a lot of patriotic emotion upon me,” said Carrie Harris. “Hearing their performance really captivated and instilled the selfless service all members of the military endure every day.”

Citizens and veterans have multiple opportunities to see the band perform, as they average 70-80 performances each year.

“We perform in a variety of parades about five times a year, concerts throughout the summer, and holiday concerts around December,” said Hurban. “We also support veterans and military members by providing funeral honors with buglers, change of command ceremonies, military retirements, nursing homes, and other veteran communities.”

“This summer, we have performed in Bad Axe, Tecumseh, Camp Grayling, Dearborn, Portage, and our last performance is scheduled July 2 in Mackinaw City,” he said.

On average, the band consists of 35 Soldiers, playing a variety of instruments, ranging from woodwind to brass to string.

“Band members are skilled in a variety of instruments that include the flute, clarinet, saxophone, French horn, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, percussion, guitar, and keyboard,” said Hurban.

Being in the band also gives members a sense of giving back.

“One of the main reasons I continue to serve year after year is the happiness and joy music brings to so many people around our great state,” said Hurban. “Getting the chance to meet veterans and to hear their stories is a huge part of our mission and the best part of our job. Being a resident of Portage added a bit more for me tonight!”