By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Orlando Guerrero says music is the way he chooses to serve his country.
The native of El Paso, Texas, will be performing on flute Thursday as part of the 44th Army Band of the New Mexico National Guard as their tour stops on Eastern New Mexico University’s campus.
The band serves as the musical ambassador of the New Mexico Army National Guard and consists of more than 30 citizen-soldiers, according to Ralph Harris, first sergeant of the 44th Army Band.
Prior to joining his current band, Guerrero played with the 13th Army Band out of Miami.
“I’ve been to the major cities in Florida but this will be my first tour with this band,” Guerrero said. “I feel really good because that’s my way of serving. My friend is a nurse in the military and I want to play music. It works very well for me.”
According to Harris, the band has been in the National Guard since the 1920s at the conclusion of World War I as the regimental band of the 111th Cavalry. In 1940 it became the band of the 200th Coast Artillery.
“In that persona, the 200th Coast Artillery and its band were deployed to the Philippines in the summer of 1941,” Harris said. “They were still in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War II. In one instant, they went from New Mexico National Guardsmen to soldiers.”
Harris said surviving members of the 200th Coast Artillery Band were part of the infamous Bataan Death March. Of 30 bandsmen deployed, only half returned home in 1945.
Being a part of a band with that legacy means a lot to Jaye Johnson, 21, of Portales. The percussionist said he was recruited at a high school all-state band festival by an Army recruiter, so he also decided to join the military through music.
“I love getting to serve my country and fellow soldiers through music,” Johnson said. “It’s a great honor to play for a band that set a high bar from the beginning.”
Johnson says he looks forward to playing with the Mariachi ensemble in the show. The program will consist of popular patriotic numbers as well as a saxophone quartet and a brass quintet, according to Harris.
What: 44th Army Band of the New Mexico National Guard
When: 7 p.m., today in Clovis and Thursday in Portales.
Where: Clovis Convention Center on Wednesday and Eastern New Mexico University’s Buchanan Hall on Thursday.