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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2018

85th Army Band's vast history comes to close with inactivation ceremony

By Sgt. Nicole Nicolas 318th Press Camp Headquarters

The 85th Army Reserve Band officially closed a chapter of its vast history at their inactivation ceremony Sept. 9. Since World War II, this unit has inspired and stole the hearts of soldiers and the community through its music.

“If you don’t have that song in your heart you’ll never pick up your step,” said Maj Gen. Patrick Reinert, commanding general of the 88th Readiness Division.

The unit captured the hearts of citizens of a small mountainside village in France when they performed in a parade as part of a dedication ceremony honoring an Army Corps soldier who crashed nearby in an effort to aid in liberating the town during World War II, said Chief Warrant Officer Jim Walker, the commanding officer and bandmaster for the 35th Infantry Division Band from the Kansas National Guard and former commander of the 85th Army Band. This was the first time a military organization marched through the town since their liberation, Walker added.

After they finished, a representative from the French Embassy approached Walker to praise the band, Walker said. The Frenchmen from the Embassy said they had done more in that 20-minute ceremony to further relations with France than any other time he could remember because they thought it was significant that representatives of the U.S. Army were willing to stand out in the pouring rain in this French village to honor a World War II veteran and its citizens.

For 1st Sgt. Eric Jerauld of the former 85th Army Band, it was impressive to see the French people honoring a U.S. World War II veteran more than 70 years later. 

“The military band is an important part the Army, it’s always made me appreciate ceremonies and service that much more,” Reinert said. 

During the ceremony Maj. Gen. Reinert shared the unit’s anxiety when they first heard the about inactivation of the 85th Army band, but Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Fabis, the 484th Army Band Commander reminded him that no matter where he goes he will always be a part of the military band. He also let the robust and active 85th Army band alumni know that they are always welcome at any military band function. 

Although an inactivation is always hard for an army unit, the key is to make sure they understand they’re still part of the Army and will continue to play the army’s song, said Reinert. 

The inactivation of the 85th Army Band is a result of several forced developmental restructures in the Army Reserve. Part of the restructuring included downsizing the band. They are one of two bands that are being inactivated.

“This [the inactivation] will help the Army overall because we’ll shrink the Army overhead but will be able to retain high quality soldiers to continue the army mission,” said Reinert. 

“Because of this transition, two units will converge to be able to cover a larger geographic area and enable them to do a lot more collaboration with other band units throughout the country,” Jerauld said. 

With the transition will come change, but much will stay the same for the 85th Army Band including the unit staying together at their home base in Arlington Heights.

“I don’t see much change [with the transition] the family atmosphere that this band brings is already being passed on to 484th Army Band, the efficiency we have is being passed on,” said Spc. Andrew Bilgri who plays the tuba in the brass quintet for the 85th Army Band. 

Jerauld cherishes his and his band’s ability to share the Army story through music as well as the decade-long relationships he’s developed with his band members while travelling the country performing various concerts for the Army. Jerauld is excited to make new memories as the 85th Army Band transitions to the 484th Army Band.

“I want us to be the best music ensemble we can be,” Jerauld said. “We strive to do our best to represent the U.S. Army, especially for the soldiers who are out doing dangerous things on a daily basis and provide a reminder to the public that there are still soldiers out their doing very dangerous things to protect them.”