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U.S. Navy ensemble gets a little bit country

July 10, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

Though their twangy tunes might seem more at home in denim and Texas-sized belt buckles, the uniformed country music band playing Sunday at Hagerstown Community College wore dress shoes and stripes indicating they were all-American.

For one family, the seven-man U.S. Navy ensemble that performed at the Hagerstown Community College Alumni Amphitheater had a local accent. Musician 1st Class Patrick White, a backup singer who plays mandolin and fiddle, is a graduate of Williamsport High School.

"I've always been a musician," White, 34, said backstage after a concert that lasted about 1 1/2 hours.

Hundreds of people, including White's wife, daughters and in-laws, tapped their feet and clapped on their thighs to songs such as the "Tennessee Waltz," "Brown Eyed Girl" and Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road."

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The band, which also includes members from Illinois, Alaska and other states, paid tribute to soldiers with John Michael Montgomery's song, "Letters from Home," which tells the story of a soldier finding solace during war in his family's periodic updates.

As the band rocked its way through Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A.," a scattering of people stood up hesitantly, then the entire audience. One man pumped his fist as the anthem ended.

According to White, the band, which is based in Washington, D.C., travels the country throughout the year as a service to citizens and a recruitment tool for the armed services. White, who lives in Point of Rocks, Md., said he earned an administration of justice degree from HCC in 1991, two years after graduating from Williamsport.

He said he has gotten used to performing in front of his family.

"They just heckle you a little bit," he quipped.

Amy White, 35, said she is used to her husband's comings and goings. She said her daughters, 6-year-old Katherine and sister, Hannah, 4, both enjoy music, though they miss their father when he is away.

"I'm a single mother right now, he's been traveling so much," she said.

HCC President Guy Altieri said the military band series, which is in its second year, has helped create the busiest summer ever at the amphitheater.

"This is another way the community college serves the community," said Altieri, who watched the concert from a lawn chair on the hill above the amphitheater.

Musician 1st Class White, who joined the band 12 years ago after graduating from HCC, said he plans to stay in the U.S. Navy until he is eligible to retire. The band seldom travels overseas, and the mission to make good music never changes, he said.

"Once I auditioned and had the job, I've had it ever since," he told Altieri.

White and his bandmates found a supportive audience. As the band played the songs of the four armed services, dozens of people, including White's family and one man sporting a U.S. Marines tattoo, stood and cheered.

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