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Raven Band Honors Veterans at Pearl Harbor

For the Alonso High School band, December’s trip to Hawaii was the experience of a lifetime.

It was filled with enduring friendship, excellent food, unforgettable vistas and two meaningful performances.

The band, which was selected to participate in the annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony, had 30-minute concerts at the Polynesian Cultural Center and on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship.

“We made memories that will never be forgotten,’’ Alonso band director Melanie DuBay said.

After applying to the program and a great deal of fundraising, 80 Alonso students – about half of the band members – made the trip, along with nine chaperones. DuBay brought her husband and their 15-month-old daughter, Emily.

On the morning of departure, Dec. 6, the band members reached the Tampa International Airport at 4 a.m. After traveling to Houston for a brief layover, it was an eight-hour flight to Honolulu.

“Once we got to Hawaii, everybody was really tired from the trip,’’ said Alonso junior Ray Andresen, who plays alto saxophone. “But then we stepped outside and saw all the mountains and scenery. That gave us energy. We were so fired up to actually be there.’’

The Alonso students loved seeing Waikiki Beach, the Dole Pineapple plantation and the view of Diamondhead, along with participating in a luau. They enjoyed a trip to a “secret island,’’ where there was kayaking and wake-boarding.

But the trip’s greater meaning wasn’t lost on anyone.

“I think it gave everyone a better appreciation for our veterans,’’ DuBay said of her students. “They need a good dose of history in their lives to appreciate what they have. I think this trip really helped in that respect.’’

Each year, there is a somber remembrance of Dec. 7, 1941, the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and sent the United States into World War II.

“I’m not sure I could describe what it was like to be part of it,’’ said Alonso junior Will Anderson, who plays tenor saxophone. “It was very patriotic. It was a chance to give back to all the fallen. It was humbling and breathtaking at the same time.’’

“It all meant a lot to me,’’ Andresen said. “It was very flattering and very gratifying that we were picked to do this. I’m sure I’ll remember it the rest of my life.’’

After the two musical performances, reality set it. The Alonso band returned home, traveling through the night and landing in Tampa at mid-afternoon.

The next day, they were back in school.

“That was part of the deal,’’ Andresen said. “We promised our principal that we wouldn’t miss any more time (than necessary). It’s hard, but making this kind of trip was well worth the sacrifice.’’

“Some of the people who made the trip had never even been on a plane,’’ Anderson said. “It was unforgettable to see all those mountains and the crystal blue water. We were still in Hawaii and many of us already had the feeling of how much we were going to miss it.’’

It was the trip of a lifetime.

By Joey Johnston

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