Why the U.S. Army strikes up the band

Saturday, September 25, 2010; A12

While Walter Pincus makes an attempt to show himself as a supporter of Army bands, his constant banter and attacks on them are fairly transparent ["Army band to get a $4.4 million home in Ala.," Sept. 14]. Enough already.

To wave off the impact that an institution such as the Army band has by simply saying it can "aid morale" for groups going overseas shows Mr. Pincus's naivete regarding the vital role that the band fills.

While I do not know what Mr. Pincus's experience was when he was in the Army, I know from my own experience (and I can speak without prejudice, as I have zero affiliation with the band) that the Army band serves a purpose that goes way beyond being a morale booster.

In a college football game, the school band plays the alma mater and fight songs to bring the fans, students, team and staff together, to direct and focus them all on a common purpose: winning on the football field. A college football game played without the backdrop of a band would result in a different dynamic for the team and crowd.

If you take this example and amplify it several times over, you begin to understand what it means for a soldier about to deploy to combat for the first time, standing at attention on a parade field watching the passing band. He or she stands ready to leave the safety of home, listening to the band and comprehending the history and the story of the U.S. Army -- not in pictures and words, but in the universal language of music.

The importance of unifying soldiers with their mission, both mentally and spiritually, to go and fight on a battlefield: This is the importance and mission that is held by our Army bands.

Steven Bartley, Alexandria

The writer is a major in the U.S. Army.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company