Military duty delays Matt Query’s
hopes to rejoin AAMB
Trombonist offers thoughts from Kuwait to students
attending Band Camp
one person who was most looking forward to the Purdue “All-American”
Marching Band’s annual band camp, the one person who’d consider
marching in the heat of an Indiana August a breeze compared to what
he’s been through, will not be able to report on Aug. 18.
SFC Matthew Query, who reported for active duty in Kuwait and Iraq the
day after he marched at the Sun Bowl on Jan. 1, 2003, is still on the
other side of the world with his Indiana Army National Guard Unit. Temperatures
reach 120 every day where he’s currently stationed in Kuwait and
they haven’t seen a drop of rain in more than two months.
“I’ve heard it’ll be between 130 and 140 in August.
THAT would be a hellish band camp, wouldn’t it,” says Query
whose sense of humor has stayed with him.
For the senior trombone player from Vincennes, thoughts of his family,
friends and activities he loved back home – especially the “All-American”
Marching Band – helped get him through the rough spots. It was
definitely rough the day Patriot missiles were “killing”
SCUDS right over the heads of his unit, Query says, and when the vehicle
he was on drove through the middle of a minefield, barely missing a
mine by less than a foot.
From the beginning Query had his sights set on marching this fall and
every email he wrote home talked about it. In March, he wrote: “There
are always rumors flying, but I still have my hopes set on 180 days
instead of 360. That would put me back 1 July and I could be a part
of the band that I miss so much,” he wrote.
That was before he got sent to Iraq, and before the peace turned out
to be anything but peaceful. Currently Query’s company secures
the U.S. air force base in Kuwait used by troops entering and leaving
If his current Nov. 17 redeployment date holds, the only chance he’d
probably have to see his girlfriend Danielle Donovan in her new role
as Drum Major of the “All-American” Marching Band, something
she won auditioned for and won while he was away, would be at a bowl
When Query does return – he now has his hopes set on concert band
in the spring semester – his experiences will provide his fellow
bandsmen with a look at Iraq and the war that goes behind the news headlines.
National Guardsmen often get involved in humanitarian work and Query
found that to be one of the most meaningful of his experiences overseas.
“While in Iraq I was fortunate enough to be able to do some humanitarian
relief for Iraqi families that were near us,” he says. Poor, simple
farm families, they lived in mud huts with no running water, gas or
Query, and his fellow guardsmen saved uneaten MREs (meals-ready-to-eat)
and took them, along with bottled water, out to these families. “They
loved us for it. Every time we went out there, they wanted us to sit
down and have ‘tchai’ or tea with them. Often we accepted.
We would talk to them, they in their broken English and we in our VERY
broken Arabic. Somehow, we managed to have great conversations with
them. I also heard their stories of oppression by Sadam’s regime,”
“They helped us keep the shepherds and other migrant families
away from our positions. It was a very good relationship. They live
such hard lives. Most live without shoes and we attempted to find some
old Iraqi soldiers’ shoes for them.
“This made me reaffirm my belief in how lucky I am to live in
a free country and to be able to have all that I could ask for. Also,
being near places where live rounds, bombs and rockets were going off
made my value my life, my family and my friends so much more.”
One meaningful marching band tradition, “I Am An American,”
crossed Query’s mind while overseas, especially while watching
July 4 activities on television. “Every time I heard a patriotic
song, I got tears in my eyes. I am sure I’ll shed tears when I
hear the marching band play their rendition of ‘I Am An American.’
I will be reminded of all the struggles and hardships that not only
I went through, but all the servicemen and women went through, and have
gone through to win us our more than 200 years of freedom.”
As he thinks about coming home, Query realizes there are indeed aspects
of his band experience that have paid off in his military career. To
be successful in either you need discipline and dedication, he says.
“It takes a very disciplined and dedicated person to join the
military, just as it does to join the “All-American” Marching
Band. We do it for the love of our country, and the love of music, respectively.
Without these qualities, we would succeed in neither.”
For all the freshman and upperclassmen coming to band camp Aug. 18,
whose place Query who love to be in, he offers these thoughts:
Matt's company on a bombed out Iraqi bunker
SURVIVING: Physically you have to be acclimated to
the heat and humidity. Make sure to drink plenty of water. It would
help to start running before band camp to get your endurance up. Any
upperclassman will tell you that run-on works even the most in-shape
person, and practices need to stay high speed. If you’re out of
shape, you’ll not only slow yourself down, but 349 other people.
Mentally, just stay motivated and never give up on yourself. You’ll
come across many new things in a college band and you may have a bad
day when learning a new style or step. If you give up mentally, you’ll
never make it physically. No matter how bad you think you may have done,
it usually just isn’t that bad. Make a mistake, fine. Fix it quickly
and maintain your focus, that’s what really makes you stand out
from the rest!
Always give 110 percent and try to be flawless every time.
MOST SURPRISING FOR NEWCOMERS: The chair step. I
was used to the military step from high school and the chair step was
a big change for me. Add in playing, swaggering, marching and horn flashes,
and you’ve got a big change from high school.
SCARIEST PART: For freshmen it’s not knowing
if you’ll meet the standards with all the upperclassmen around.
For upperclassmen is that a freshman will get your spot in the block
because they’re afraid of not meeting standards and will try that
much harder to be like you.
TRADITIONS: My favorite tradition for the trombones
is the run to the airport the morning of tryouts. Other favorites are
the bone tree, the bone rock, and of course the “bone-a-pic”
party where trombones and piccolos party the night after tryouts!
SPECIAL MEMORIES: After missing a season when I studied
abroad in France, my re-entrance to Ross-Ade was very exciting. Every
entrance and performance after that was exciting too. You really don’t
know what you’re missing in the marching band until you’re
not there for a year. Never take the opportunity for granted. Another
great memory for me was going down to El Paso for the Sun Bowl. Despite
being called to war while there I couldn’t have been in a better
place with all my friends before leaving on deployment.
IMPORTANCE OF BAND: I grew up with music and lots
of extra curricular activities. If I’m not doing something other
than just studying, I would go crazy and have too much time on my hands
to find other, less appropriate things to do. It is definitely NOT a
distraction. Music has proven to make you more intelligent and I need
all the extra help I can get!
PERSONAL NOTE: I just want to thank everyone in the
band, all my friends, all the directors and assistant directors, for
your support and prayers while I have been over here the past six months.
Unfortunately, duty will not allow me to return this marching season,
but you can count on me for the next one. You’ve given me countless
fabulous memories and made me happy beyond words. I sincerely thank
you from the bottom of my heart and hope to see you soon. I love you
all and God Bless America!
When Matt Query returns to Purdue, he will be finishing his studies
as a senior majoring in organizational leadership and supervision. Matt
is a graduate of Lincoln High School, the son of Dennis and Karen Query