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SLSO Songs of America | "Armed Services Medley"

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force

Arranged by Tech Sgt. Jeremy S. Martin

Jennifer Nitchman, flute

Xiomara Mass, oboe

Tzuying Huang, clarinet

Felicia Foland, bassoon

Victoria Knutdson, horn

Alan Stewart, drum set

Each Veterans Day, the United States remembers, honors, and commends the country’s service members—all who have served and currently serve in its military. The holiday coincides with Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, each solemnly commemorating the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the World War I armistice took effect. This year, an ensemble of SLSO musicians, including an Army veteran, gathered to pay musical tribute to service members with the “Armed Services Medley.”

U.S. Army: “The Army Goes Rolling Along”

John Philip Sousa

The Army, the largest military branch by personnel, was choosy in adopting an official song. Two different contests were held in the 1940s and 50s, but none of the entries passed muster. “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” a setting of John Philip Sousa’s “U.S. Field Artillery March,” with new text, was settled on in 1956.

Jennifer Nitchman, Flutist, previously served four years in the Army Field Band. “One of my favorite parts of serving in the United States Army Field Band was playing the Armed Forces Medley at every concert,” Nitchman said. “We traveled all over the country giving performances in high school gyms in tiny rural areas, the finest concert halls in the country, and everywhere in between. In every venue, veterans stood for their service branch's song with pride and reverence. I am so proud to be a part of this video, and I know we all hope it can properly express our gratitude on this Veterans Day!”

U.S. Marines: “The Marines’ Hymn”

Jacques Offenbach

“The Marines’ Hymn” tune comes from an 1867 opera by Jacques Offenbach, specifically a duet by two cavalrymen. The author of the text is unknown, though legend points to a Marine on duty in Mexico. The text calls up famous victories by the Marines, from “The Halls of Montezuma” (a nod to a building stormed during the Mexican–American War), “To the shores of Tripoli” (referencing an 1805 battle and the first time the Marines’ flag was raised in the old world.)

U.S. Navy: “Anchors Aweigh”

Charles A. Zimmerman

The Navy’s fight song, “Anchors Aweigh,” dates to 1906, and has been paired with slightly different texts over the years. The song was composed by Charles A. Zimmermann, a Navy lieutenant and bandmaster of the U.S. Naval Academy Band. Its upbeat, memorable tune has since been adopted by other navies across the globe.

SLSO Trombonist Jonathan Reycraft previously served in the U.S. Naval Academy Band. Though this performance did not call for trombone, Reycraft said that “serving in the Navy with America’s ‘Oldest and Finest’ Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Maryland, was an honor,” and remembered how the band’s sound, “marching across Worden Field past Midshipmen, connected us as humans.”

U.S. Coast Guard: Semper Paratus

Francis Saltus Van Boskerck

The Coast Guard’s Semper Paratus (“Always Ready”) was composed by Coast Guard Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck. The tale goes that he wrote the text while on a Coast Guard cutter in 1922 and the tune in 1927 on a beat-up piano in the Aleutian Islands. The day before his death, he gave it to a colleague to have published. The text alludes to the many shores the Coast Guard protects, noting “the Flag is carried by our ships, In times of war and peace.”

U.S. Air Force: “Wild Blue Yonder”

Robert MacArthur Crawford

“The U.S. Air Force,” more commonly known as “Wild Blue Yonder,” won the Air Force’s contest for a song unanimously, becoming the official song in the 1940s. Its composer, Robert MacArthur Crawford, had an early calling to flight, even trying to enter the Army Air Service during WWI before being dismissed for being underage. He did learn to fly—in addition to becoming a professional musician—earning the nickname “The Flying Baritone.” Crawford went on to serve as a transport pilot during WWII and returned to his music career after the war.

U.S. Space Force: “The Invincible Eagle”

John Philip Sousa

“The U.S. Space Force March,” is an interim song for the newest military branch based on John Philip Sousa’s 1901 march, “The Invincible Eagle.” Sousa, “The March King,” wrote the piece while traveling by train between Buffalo and New York. According to a member of the Sousa Band who was traveling with him, he put the piece on paper with fervor, not breaking until he had written the accompaniment and “picked out the march on an [imaginary] violin on his fingers.” Sousa had high hopes for the piece, likening it to another celebrated U.S. march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

To all who have served, thank you.


Armed Services Medley is sponsored by Ameren.

"The U.S. Air Force Song" by Robert Crawford is courtesy of Carl Fischer, LLC.


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