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Band Carries 'America Supports You' Banner in Inaugural Parade

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2005 – When the "Georgia Bridgemen" band from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in today's inaugural parade, they proudly carried a message for U.S. servicemembers around the world.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Members of the Georgia Bridgemen band from Lowndes High Scool in Valdosta, Ga., unfurl an "America Supports You" banner on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as the group prepares to march in the inaugural parade Jan. 20. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"America Supports You" read the bright banner uniformed bandsmen carried.

America Supports you is a Defense Department project to recognize the things Americans do to show support for the country's military men and women.

Lowndes' director of bands Charles Todd explained the school was selected to carry the ASY banner because Valdosta is home to Moody Air Force Base.

"We've got a lot of our kids whose parents are either active or retired military, and some of our kids have parents who are deployed overseas," he said. "So since we're such a big military community, they asked us if we'd be interested in (carrying that banner)."

The Georgia Bridgemen are a very accomplished high school band. They visited Washington two years ago to march in the Cherry Blossom parade and marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York in 2003. In 2006, the group will travel to Pasadena, Calif., to march in the Tournament of Roses parade.

Todd explained there would be no sightseeing for the Georgia kids this week; they were scheduled to leave for home after the parade. The trip to the inaugural parade had to be short so the group doesn't "break the bank" and come up short of funds to travel to California next year.

But, even though there were to be no visits to the Smithsonian or the monuments, this trip did bring a special thrill to these youngsters from their town in southern Georgia -- snow.

"We're right on the Florida line," Todd said. "So our climate is just very different. For them this is just a really big experience."

He explained that snow started falling heavily just after the line of 12 yellow school buses crossed into Virginia Jan. 19. The weather had a pretty negative effect on traffic, and the buses spent a few hours at a rest area. "That was like taking (the students) to Disneyland," Todd said. "They had a ball. They had snowball fights."

Fourteen-year-old Julie Peterson, whose dad is in the Air Force, said she thinks it's "really great" that the high-school kids are getting to show their support for the military.

Drummer Anastasia Kelly, 17, whose mom is a civilian secretary at Moody, agreed.

She had a simple but heartfelt message for U.S. troops stationed abroad: "I can't wait to see ya'll come home."

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