Claflin Hill Salutes Our Nation’s Veterans

Claflin Hill, in its entirety, is, and always has been, very patriotic. We are deeply appreciative of the service and sacrifice of both our nation’s men and women who currently serve, and our Veterans.   At every concert throughout the summer, we dedicate a segment of our programming to recognize our Veterans – performing “Armed Forces Salute” on every program we do, and usually several other selections, such as John Williams “Midway March” and his “Hymn to the Fallen” from “Saving Private Ryan.”  Several years ago, we devoted an entire Symphony concert at Milford Town Hall to those who serve us. It was called “Let Freedom Ring” and we are probably one of the few symphony orchestras that have ever done that outside of a national holiday event.

Maybe that comes from my upbringing – my late father was an extremely proud Veteran of the United States Air Force – he used to bring us kids to air shows at Air Force bases throughout New England – Hanscom, Pease, Westover, Bradley Field in Connecticut – and we NEVER missed a Memorial or Veterans Day parade, and until his last year, he never did either.  In his day, EVERYONE served, and it was for many, “the best days of their lives.”  The lasting brotherhood that transcends family.

As someone who did not serve in our Armed Forces, I often think of the soliloquy from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” which roughly paraphrased says, “ . . .  and men now abed in England will feel their manhood cheapened because they were not here with us at Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day.”

I grew up in the immediate Post-Vietnam Era – the draft was over, there was no looming threat to America, and I was going into music.   I hope to serve my community and my country as best I can, using the talents God has given me, but I can never equate my meager contributions against the sacrifice and calling that is answered every day by fellow citizens who enter into our Armed Forces, and of those that don’t return home – having given as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put it, “the last full measure of devotion.”

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, The Claflin Hill Symphony Summer Winds take the stage at the Milford Musicians Pavilion in Milford Town Park for the third concert of the 22nd Season of Family Night at the Bandstand.  On that evening, we will devote an entire evening of music to recognizing our Nation’s Veterans, and especially those who served during the Vietnam War Era.

This year marks roughly the 50th Anniversary of men and women in our Armed Forces starting to return home from that conflict – beginning from 1965 after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, when we began the military buildup in that tragic country – in 1967 troops began “rotating” home after tours of duty there.

They came home to a country descending into societal chaos – between the growing Civil Rights Movement and the growing Anti-War Movement – we were a nation at war with ourselves, and the young men and women who had done what their Nation asked of them, came home to protests, diatribes, rocks, and taunts.   They received no thanks, no parades, no concerts, and many were, in fact, embarrassed or even fearful, to wear the uniforms in which they served so nobly out in public. 

A shame on our society, a stain which will never really be bleached out.

I once read that the ultimate sign of a declining and decadent society is when it asks their soldiers to serve and then ignores their plight when they return home.   Our country veered dangerously close to that in those years.   Perhaps we’ve learned something, but it is a lesson that must be reinforced every day and taught to every next generation. 

The political dialogue that transpires before a nation goes to war is important and necessary, but once it reaches a decision, it is up to the citizenry of that nation to then support the members of their society that are sent forth to carry out the task that the politicians have directed them to.

Perhaps it should be a requirement that political leaders serve in the military before they make those decisions, but as citizens, it is our duty to support them, to thank them, and to provide any and all manner of care that is needed when they return.

Would that we lived in a world where that profession was not needed, but the human race has not yet evolved to that state.   There are and will probably always be people and ideologies out there that wish us harm, or do not believe in a society of free thought and free choice.

                                     Michael Mobilia in vietnam

                                     Michael Mobilia in vietnam

My wife Susan’s uncle, Michael Mobilia served in Vietnam as a member of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade – “The Redcatchers.**”  He was an MIT engineering major, volunteered for the Army and requested Vietnam.   He was the bright shining star of a small family, and he did his duty as he saw it.  

Two U.S. Army officers paid that tragic visit to his parent’s front door in Medford, MA on Father’s Day in 1969 to inform them of his death.  It was a blow that changed and resonated through that family to this day.

I know that my wife’s family thinks of Michael every single day-- of all that could have been, the accomplishments he never lived to fulfill, the cousins they never had because he never came home to marry and have a family of his own, set against the ultimate result of that war and it’s 58,000 casualties.

Vietnam reunion

Michael – and every Veteran of that period was a hero – who all deserve a seat at the table with the great American heroes throughout our history into the present day.

It is ideal to hope for a better world, and the “better angels of our nature” – to quote Abraham Lincoln again – but at the same time, we must always be vigilant and ready to protect the freedoms and ideologies that have been handed to us outright in the cradle.

Join us on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 6:30 PM in Milford Town Park, for an evening of remembrance and thanks.

Paul Surapine

**The Brigade is Born

The Beginning

Formally activated June 1st, 1966 the Brigade began small unit training June 27th at Fort Benning, Georgia to be followed by eight weeks of field training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Fulfilling the concept of a modern Light Infantry Brigade ("Light Swift & Accurate” is the 199th’s motto) and its role in counterinsurgency warfare the Brigade was designed as a hitchhiker unit with heavy equipment kept to a minimum.

Following intensive preparations, a 280-man advance party left at the end of November 1966. After final review the majority of Redcatchers were flown to Oakland, California where they boarded the USS Sultan and the USS Pope for the more than a two week trip across the Pacific Ocean. The USS Sultan docked at Vung Tau and two days later the USS Pope docked and everyone moved to meet the advanced party at a tent encampment north of Long Binh that was to become the Brigade Main Base, Camp Frenzell-Jones.

Welcome Home

The Return

The 199th Light Infantry Brigade returned from distinguished service in Vietnam and Cambodia against a determined and aggressive enemy, and was inactivated in a ceremony October 15, 1970 on York Field at Fort Benning. The Redcatchers hence etched their name in eleven hard-won campaigns with over 750 Killed in Action in the last sustained Infantry combat of the twentieth century. Brigade units earned the Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, two awards of the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal First Class.

It WILL Be A VERY Good Year!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016    10:30 AM . . .

Well, back to the blog undertaking!   I hope everyone has been having a great summer so far – I’m in the office for a few minutes today, just before heading up to Bridgton, Maine and our Aunt Eva’s house on Long Lake for an extended weekend stay, hopefully full of sun filled days out on the water, early mornings sitting on the dock by the water’s edge, watching the morning mist lift off the lake, and hearing the calling of the loons as they float up and down the eleven miles plus expanse of gorgeous Maine vista.

It’s been a good summer so far here at Claflin Hill – Family Night at the Bandstand is in full “swing” (actually the Fantasy Big Band is coming next week for an evening of Swing Era classics!) – and believe or not, we’ve already completed the season programming for this coming season of CHSO concerts!

Fantasy Big Band at Family Night at the Bandstand

As I related in my springtime missives, planning a symphony season is a sometimes long process of waiting for ideas and inspirations to occur – I may start with one idea and as weeks of contemplation over that idea cook away in my head, it may take us in a different direction altogether.

The “Muses” struck early this year – and I’m TOTALLY excited by the menu of great music we’ve laid out for our communal sharing and exploration.   You can already view the roster of concerts on the website, and season tickets will go on sale in mid-August.  Watch for more details in those email blasts from Bernadette soon.

I even love our season “tag-line” – “It WILL Be A VERY Good Year”   which in a sense, pays tribute to the great ending of last year’s season, referencing the Sinatra classic which was so perfectly performed by the orchestra and Tommy Gatturna on our April season finale, and after all – this is our Seventeenth Season.   “When I was seventeen . . ."

I started out hoping to program a number of great Symphonies of the repertoire – I had Brahms in mind, and Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer, and a few others.  I wanted to make this season an “exploration” of the “Symphony” form – performing those great “chestnuts” of our repertoire that we’ve yet to present, but also keeping true to our Claflin Hill concept of “fusion cuisine” for music – presenting great classics AND music that may be more familiar to audience members.

The tricky aspect of doing that when you’re playing something like a Brahms symphony is – what do you pair that with on the same night that will seem appropriate to the beauty and exquisiteness of his music – or any of the other amazing and stellar composers of our culture.   You don’t want to serve a “filet mignon” alongside of a Twinkie, for instance!!!

But, as I said, the “Muses” awoke early, and all sorts of ideas came into play and quickly it evolved into a lineup of works that excite me and also all of the musicians of the orchestra, who – as they sent in their confirmations for work during the season, all commented on what a terrific program we have to look forward to.

I’ll write more about upcoming concerts when I return from Maine, starting with our season opener, “In the Shadow of Ludwig Van . . “ and going through the season with you.

I know you’re all going to LOVE this season’s offerings – and I guarantee it will be a fitting continuation of the Claflin Hill “mystique” that has become our trademark as an orchestra.

Watch for more news soon, and by the way, if you haven’t been to Family Night at the Bandstand, be sure to put that on your calendar –every Tuesday night at Milford Town Park through August 23rd.   And Claflin Hill will be visiting Grafton, Whitinsville and Blackstone coming up this summer too!

Off to Maine.  I have to go pack the boat now.

Paul Surapine