Sights and sounds of the Marine Corps take over Nashville

Sights and sounds of the Marine Corps take over Nashville

The Silent Drill Platoon performed during the opening ceremony of Marine Week Nashville September 7, 2016. Photo by Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

For four days, the country and western sounds of Nashville, TN were turned down-if only slightly-to make way for the sounds of the United States Marine Corps. From September 7-11, more than 700 Marines descended on downtown Nashville for Marine Week 2016, where they displayed the rigors of recruit training, the full capabilities and firepower of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) and the indelible fighting spirit that's in all of those who earn the title of United States Marine. 

"Nashville loves our Marine Corps, and we're so happy they're here," Jim Harbison, the Executive Director of the Nashville Development and Housing Agency and veteran Marine, said after going for a ride in the MV-22 Osprey. "This airframe, the young people that fly it, from the crew chief to the pilots, it is just wonderful to see that part of our population and to show that off to our Nashville natives."

There was perhaps no better city to show off the sounds of the Marine Corps than Nashville, which was treated to the Marine Corps Band at the Grand Ole Opry where they performed alongside country music legends Billy Ray Cyrus and Crystal Gayle.

As part of the week's festivities the Marine Corps and two-time Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton kicked off the new Semper Fidelis All-American Program which celebrates and honors student athletes who embody the same fighting spirit of the Marine Corps. Eaton, whose brother is a Marine veteran and Silver Star recipient, won the gold medal in the decathlon in Rio, and said one of his goals as an athlete is to influence young people in a positive way.

"For this program to highlight young men and women who by every sense of the word have the fighting spirit," he says, "is one of the dreams of my accomplishments. If I could use my accomplishments for something, it would be to be a part of something like that."

While the Nashville community learned about the Marine Corps and witnessed the full scope of their air and land capabilities, it was also an opportunity for Marines to spend time up close and one on one with the men and women they protect every day.

"Actually seeing so many of these men and women here today, put on a whole new meaning. I want to go up and hug each and every one of them and thank them individually," said Michelle Heiberg, an attorney from Minnesota who was in Nashville on business. "Seeing them in flesh and blood, in person, safe and sound on our soil, hearing some of them talk about their stories, on far away lands, it's overwhelming, it really is. The sacrifices that they are voluntarily making for us, is overwhelming."

Capt Kenneth Johnson, an MV-22 Osprey Pilot from Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, NC said the chance to show the community his aircraft and the Marine Corps up close is important. 

"To get out and show the people, this year in Nashville, what our capabilities are, what we do for the public, and really engage them and invest them in what we're doing-so that they know their support for us is appreciated," he said. "The bulk of the Marine Corps, Nashville doesn't get to see that. So to come here to them, this provides that opportunity."

In addition to the MAGTF demonstration, workouts and Silent Drill Platoon performances, Marines stood with Nashville to mark the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. 

"It is a day that changed our nation forever," Gen Glenn Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, said at the ceremony. "More than 3,000 American lives were lost that day, loved ones and family members, and we honor their memory today."