Washington: Two area musicians to play for band

Washington: Two area musicians to play for band

January 20th, 2009 by Susan Pierce in Local Regional News

Master Gunnery Sgt. Fred Lemmons and Staff Sgt. Brian Turnmire will have front-row seats today when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the nation's 44th president.

They're not part of the president-elect's security team. They're part of his band.

"I'm sure there will be a time when I look back on it and think, 'Wow, I was part of this and it was amazing,'" said Sgt. Turnmire, who plays trumpet in the President's Own Marine Band. "I'll have wonderful stories to tell my grandchildren."

The President's Own is the prestigious Marine band whose mission is to provide music for the president and for the commandant of the Marine Corps. During the inauguration today in Washington, D.C., the band sits directly beneath the platform where the ceremony takes place, and today's performance will mark the 53rd inauguration in which the band has performed.

For Master Gunnery Sgt. Lemmons, a graduate of Brainerd High School, this marks his sixth inauguration, three as a musician and three in his current role as the band's operations chief.

"Putting aside that it's 20 degrees and we'll have been out in it 20 hours, a lot of people would die to be in our shoes," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Lemmons, who plays clarinet.

It's his duty to see that all aspects of the band's appearance today run smoothly, from supplying the Secret Service with information for musicians' credentials to band transportation and the timing of the pieces played.

"We've been submitting information to the Secret Service for months to make sure the band has proper credentials," he said. "You can't get into the zone without credentials. We'll be the only band at the Capitol for the ceremony."

Master Gunnery Sgt. Lemmons also is in charge of logistics at tonight's Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural Ball, the ball open to all military personnel.

"We'll be playing vice presidential and presidential honors," he said, as well as playing the music for the first dance of the new president and vice president and their wives.

He declined, however, to reveal what music either couple had chosen for their dances.

Staff Sgt. Turnmire, a graduate of Ridgeland High School, is playing in his second inauguration service.

"From my perspective, there's much greater security for this inauguration than the last (President George Bush's second inauguration), many more precautions are being taken," he said.

The Secret Service announced earlier this month it was closing all bridges leading into the D.C. area to automobile traffic by 3 a.m. today as part of its security measures. Only mass transit vehicles are allowed to cross. Downtown Washington, D.C., roads are closed, with traffic limited to neighborhood residents only.

Both musicians are stationed in Washington, however, Master Gunnery Sgt. Lemmons lives in Virginia. In order to make the band's 4 a.m. roll call today, he said he planned to bunk in his Washington office Monday night.

"More than half the band is sleeping at work because it's such an early morning and they are paranoid about road closings and not making it in time," Staff Sgt. Turnmire said.