The U.S. Marine Band parades will continue until the end of August.
Every Friday during the summer, the Marine Corps holds a parade at its barracks at Eighth and I streets Southeast.
As the sun begins to drop, a few Marines walk onto the parade decks, a symmetrical grassy field enclosed within the Marine Barracks where the performance will take place.
They explain the history of the barracks to the audience: Established in 1801, it is the oldest post of the Marines and held Marine Corps headquarters until 1901.
The commandant of the Marine Corps has lived in the same house at these barracks since it was built in 1806. And the American flag that flies at the barracks bears 15 stars and 15 stripes — the same as the flag that flew there in 1801.
“We’re knee-deep in tradition here at Marine Barracks Washington,” one of the Marines says.
And then the parade begins.
Begins With Flags
There are a number of moving parts to the kinetic display.
The performance is an hour and 15 minutes long and begins with a ceremonial bearing of the colors at the barracks and ends with a bugler playing “Taps” from the roof of one of the barracks’ buildings.
Between the somber and ceremonial beginning and end is sandwiched a boisterous display of talent from the U.S. Marine Band, the Silent Drill Platoon and the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.
Each group is steeped in history and tradition. The U.S. Marine Band was declared “The President’s Own” by President Thomas Jefferson and has been present at historic events, including President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, since its establishment in 1798.
The band travels the nation to perform at ceremonies and parades, but its home is Washington.
The Silent Drill Platoon is a group of 25 hand-picked Marines who perform a silent syncopated choreography with 10-pound Garand rifles complete with bayonets. This group, too, is based in D.C., but it represents the Marines internationally.
And the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, called “The Commandant’s Own,” consists of 80 musicians, most of whom are recruited to the Marines for their musical talents. They perform in 300 to 400 events nationwide and internationally each year. Staff Sgt. Joshua Miles, a representative for the Marines, said that although they do undergo basic recruit training, they are held in reserve and only deployed for combat if they request it.
“They have a lot of unique training, and a lot of effort is put into these soldiers to prepare them for their positions” as musicians, he said. This is why so few — currently, nine — are sent into active combat.