MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
To be first, one sometimes has to sacrifice in order to set the example for all to follow. It isn’t by any means easy. After kicking down the door of adversity, he would have to survive all the attacks of hate and hardship.
This was the case for retired 1st Lt. Tony Mosely and retired Gunnery Sgt. James Richardson, the first African American band officer and drum major in the Marine Corps. They fought adversity by using their most powerful weapons, their love for music.
For all of their sacrifices and struggles, the 2nd Marine Division Band put on a personal demonstration for these veterans Feb. 9. Gunnery Sgt. David Wilson, 2nd Marine Division drum major, gladly allowed the men to take charge of the band as well.
Mosely gripped a baton and lead the band in playing the Marine’s Hymn, shortly after Richardson donned the drum major’s mace and gloves. They relived their time in the Corps when swagger and sway were their military occupational specialties.
“In the Marine Corps band, we were always the first to be seen and were always so sharp,” said Richardson. “I loved the band. We got a lot of people’s attention.”
“It’s good to see these young people out here, they’re still sharp,” said Richardson. “It was a good experience (being drum major again). I was a little hesitant there for a minute. You know, I haven’t had a mace in my hands in many years.”
Using a mace other than the one he has at home on his wall of memorabilia was a small challenge for Richardson, because maces have a certain weight balance that takes time and practice to get used to.
“The mace has a balance and you have to have something that’s balanced for you,” he said. “I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with it without the fear of maybe dropping it. But it was a good experience to get to do that once again, I loved it.”
Despite the slight awkwardness with the mace, the years seemed to melt away as he marched the band with precision and prowess holding his head high as if he had only just left the band.
Briefly afterward, Mosely stepped before the band equipped with a baton. He greeted the newer age of tune lovers with little bits of musical knowledge.
Throughout the demonstration, he was reminded of similarities between the band he lead and the one that stood before him. However, it was the difference between the acceptance of African Americans today and the heated racial tension that came to mind as he spoke to the young Marines.
In the beginning of his career, he was told he would remain stationed in the south, which was something he used to look forward to. He believed that if he could be accepted in the south, he could be accepted anywhere.
After reminiscing about his time leading the band, he showed his gratitude for the opportunity to be a band officer once again.
“I’m so glad to have had this opportunity,” Mosely said. “I would have never thought of doing it though because I’m retired. Even my dog doesn’t bother me until 11 a.m.”
One could see in Richardson and Mosely’s eyes that they had a connection with the band and remembered their own bond between man and music. They watched as the current 2nd MARDIV band and drum major ‘heel-toed’ down the road and back not only as Marines, but as brothers and sisters with a common cause.
“I’ve been playing since I was five,” said Mosely. “I know nothing else. It’s the only time I’m absolutely, positively sure I know what I’m doing. When you have something like, that nobody tells you (what to do), your insides tell you. Like I was telling (one of the band members), you don’t listen to notes, you feel notes… the vibrations. You know when you’ve done something right. You don’t have to look for the ‘coup de graces’ or the ‘atta boys’ because you know, and that’s the important thing. That’s what keeps you going.”