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Michigan National Guard Band Readies for Ford Funeral

By Sgt. Jeremy Pitcher, USA
American Forces Press Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Jan. 2, 2007 – With the state funeral for former President Gerald R. Ford moving here tomorrow, members of the 126th Army Band of the Michigan Army National Guard are honing their skills for the historic event.

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First Sgt. James Zwarensteyn, right, and soldiers of the Michigan Army National Guard’s 126th Army Band wait for their turn to practice for former President Gerald Ford's funeral to be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dec. 31, 2006. The funeral will be held Jan. 3, 2007. Photo by Staff Sgt. Helen Miller, USA
  

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The 126th Army Band is tasked to provide the instrumental music for three ceremonies. For each ceremony, the Ford family has chosen what numbers they would like to have played, and when. The song lists for the events are composed of expected melodies, common at any presidential funeral, along with family favorites meant to remember and honor Ford.

First Sgt. James Zwarensteyn, a member of the 126th for his entire 37-year military career, has played at many events for the former president..

“We played for Ford’s 90th birthday, the dedication and rededication of Ford’s museum and library,” he said. “This is bigger, though. We are all acutely aware of how important these ceremonies are going to be.”

The 126th Army Band is made up of of 35 musicians, a director and Zwarensteyn, who serves as the drum major.

“Being a part us this ceremony is a real honor for all of us,” he said. “For it to be on a worldwide stage, and for someone so important to this state, (it) is just a tremendous honor for us to be involved.”

When not working with the National Guard, Zwarensteyn is a band teacher in his local school district.

(Sgt. Jeremy Pitcher is a member of the Michigan Army National Guard.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers of the Michigan Army National Guard’s 126th Army Band march to their position during a practice session for former President Gerald Ford's funeral in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dec. 31, 2006. The funeral will be held Jan. 3, 2007. Photo by Staff Sgt. Helen Miller, USA  
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