Marching Flashes welcome troops

Erica Crist

Cpl. Ray Roccon, a 2004 Kent State graduate, kisses his wife Ayron, senior business major, after returning from a seven-month tour in Iraq. Roccon and 140 Marines of the Akron-based Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment returned home at 5:30 a.m.

Credit: Jason Hall

Pam Montgomery holds her son, Alexander, 14 months old, at the Akron-Canton Airport as the Marines arrive home from Iraq Friday morning. Pam’s husband Brian died in combat in August. She wears her husband’s tags in memory of him and in honor of his se

Credit: Jason Hall

Hearing the Marching Golden Flashes play “America the Beautiful” right now may not affect everyone the way it affected families awaiting their loved ones’ return home from Iraq Friday morning.

When the Marines of the hard-hit 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment landed early Friday morning at the Akron-Canton Airport, they were welcomed by their families, friends, TV crews and the Kent State marching band.

The Marching Golden Flashes traveled to the Akron-Canton Airport and played for the Iraq war veterans’ homecoming celebration.

The performance was recorded for possible use on the NBC “Three Wishes” television series starring Amy Grant. The event also was broadcast live on multiple Cleveland news stations.

“Our specific role was to help set the mood,” said H. Scott Curfman, director of athletic bands at the university. “We provided a little bit of entertainment and focus for the people while they were waiting, and then set the background, set the stage, for the Marines.”

Jerry Dinkelman of Tallmadge got teary-eyed just thinking about the return of his son, Lance Cpl. Brett Dinkelman. Although they had frequent cell phone conversations while his son was serving in Iraq, nothing could compare to giving him a hug, he said.

After months of worried thoughts and nearly two hours of waiting in the hangar, it was finally time.

Two planes brought the Akron-based unit home. Marines on the first plane, which arrived around 5:30 a.m., waited until the second plane landed around 6 a.m., so they could all march in together.

As the Marching Golden Flashes raised their horns, the crowd raised to the tips of their toes. Over the heads in the crowd, a red flag with the letters “USMC” could be seen marching forward as “America the Beautiful” played in the background.

Slowly the silhouette of 140 Marines could be seen coming down the wet tarmac out of the darkness. When the Marines reached the band, they were brought to attention by the sound of “Marines’ Hymn.” As the last notes rang out into the darkness, family members rushed the Marines who were still standing in formation.

“I never thought this day would come; it’s been so long,” said Cindy Bray as she hugged her son, Cpl. Christopher Bray.

“It feels wonderful and overwhelming,” Bray said.

Members of the Marching Golden Flashes also were feeling overwhelmed.

“My brother leaves in two weeks, and I’m having a hard time handling this,” said CanDance Estrada, a senior psychology major and part of the Marching Golden Flashes’ color guard. “I’ve already lost two friends.”

After the tears dried, the Marines were called to attention one last time. And with the single word “dismissed,” balloons were released and thunderous applause shook the ground. The sun was rising, and the Marines were home safe.

Members of the Marching Golden Flashes seemed to know that it was one of the most important events in which they would ever participate.

“It’s a great honor and I’m privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of this commemorative occasion,” said Aaron Rex, sophomore music education major and Marching Golden Flashes’ trombone player.

Overall, Curfman said that he wanted band members to know he was very proud of them.

“Had the Marines called us and asked us to do it just for the event itself, regardless of the TV show connection, we still would have done it,” Curfman said. “The fact that it might end up in a few seconds on that national TV show, that’s great, that’s fun and it would be neat. But the morning was about us being part of the community and welcoming home the Marines.”

Scott Marsh, junior music education major and the Marching Golden Flashes’ field commander, said that because he used to be a member of the Marine Corps. the morning was more meaningful to him.

“It was about making sure that they (the Marines) feel like somebody cares, because they were over there fighting for us,” he said. “It was a very big deal, and I’m very happy that we got a chance to go.”

Terri Wuelfing, junior interior design major and part of the Marching Golden Flashes’ color guard, agreed that the event was about appreciation for the Marines’ courage and sacrifice to America.

“I think that we should be more appreciative of the Marines than they should be of us being here,” she said.

Contact performing arts reporter Erica Crist at [email protected].