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WVU Armed Forces tribute goes viral on YouTube

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Who knew the West Virginia University Marching Band could fly?

That's just what The Pride of West Virginia did as part of a tribute to the Armed Forces during the halftime show of the WVU vs. Norfolk State game Sept. 10 as homage to the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

They flew. They floated. They sank. They rolled. And they soared.

The "2011 WVU Marching Band Armed Forces Salute" video on Youtube, an Internet video sharing website, had more than 1 million views by Friday afternoon, many of them from people outside West Virginia.

"It was lots of fun to put it together. The kids really enjoy it. We're all really proud of the Armed Forces folks and it's an honor to do it for them," said WVU Marching Band Director Dearl "Jay" Drury.

The nearly 370 members of the Pride honored the Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force and Navy one-by-one, turning the well-oiled marching band into symbols that represented each military branch.

The gears of the Army tank moved in circular unison while a Coast Guard tugboat manned the open seas. The Marine eagle stood stoic against the backdrop of Mountaineer Field. Fire extinguishers helped the Air Force jet fly across the field, and a submarine was submerged by an ocean of band members.

Drury said the video got a second life right before Veterans Day when the video was posted to numerous Armed Forces message boards.

"We've had so many great comments coming in from all over the country, all over the world for that matter," he said. "The servicemen and women are sharing it, which is great since it's for them."

One Big 12 marching band member said on Youtube the video was "Incredible! A very tasteful, clever, well thought out and performed show! Can't wait to have you guys in the Big 12 next year."

Another poster said the video turned them into a Mountaineer. 

"Awesome. The most amazing band halftime show I have ever seen or head, and on Utube [sic] no doubt. I am now a WVU fan," said user wanaka851.

Drury, who is the 11th director of the Pride of West Virginia and a WVU Marching Band alum, said the band has been performing the show every few years since he was a freshman at WVU in 1989.

"I did perform it myself in the band," he said, saying that year may have been the first time the band did that particular show to honor the Armed Forces.

Drury said he was surprised by the amount of views on the video.

"We didn't even realize at first how big the number was," he said. "We started getting tons of thank-you notes and emails from vets and active duty men and women who had been told about the video and got a chance to watch it. It's been amazing."

Frank Johnson, a West Virginia resident who is currently serving in Afghanistan as a command master chief, said on Youtube that the video was "sent to me via email with the link attached from a family member. This was awesome and swelled my pride for what we do as Military men and women. I am proud to be from West Virginia and will never forget my roots. Proud Mountaineer Fan!"

"Thank you West V Marching band. No kidding, this brought a tear to my eye. I am sorry I did not see this sooner. To your Drum Major, your Director, and most of all, to all of you that were on the field that day ... thank you! You have done us proud. Not just as Mountaineers, but as Americans. From this lowly Air Force dude from [W.Va.], thank you so much!" posted user pavelow44.

For some, the video touched close to the heart.

"Thank you for a stirring tribute to the US military. My husband just retired after 26 years in the Navy Band. We are both veterans of excellent HS and college marching band programs. My husband and son marched Drum Corps. We appreciated the effort and emotion behind the performance. This is not a contest performance. It is a tribute to the service and sacrifice of military members and their families. As someone who has lived this life, I appreciated the recognition and tribute," posted susiehudson311.

Drury said the outpouring of response about the video is "very humbling," but said it was "not one of those shows we do to say how great our band is. We're honored to do it in support of service men and women.

"It's great that folks feel that way about our band. Anything that we can do to bring positive [press] to the university and the state, I fully support.

"But this one was about the men and women that serve. The other accolades are nice, but we're just happy to thank them for what they have done for us."

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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