In 95 degree temperatures wearing winter uniforms, the 70 members of the MHS band marched along the mile and a half parade route and performed in front of a crowd that was estimated at 300,000.
"The setting was gorgeous," said Danika White, MHS band director. "We lined up on the National Mall with the Capitol behind us."
The Monett contingent arrived in Washington, D.C., on Friday, May 28, which gave the group two days to sightsee before their parade performance. The students had the opportunity to visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Capital, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetery, the Smithsonian and all the war memorials.
"The day we visited Arlington and the war memorials hit the kids harder than any other day," said White. "I think it was the reality of the sacrifices that had been made for them."
On the night before the parade, the students asked to come back to the hotel early so they could prepare themselves for their performance.
"They knew the next day was a big deal," said White.
The bands had to be in place by 12:45 p.m. on the day of the parade. The Monett band was 125th out of 140 units, and even though the parade began at 2 p.m., the Monett crew did not "step off" until 3:45 p.m. During the three hour wait, the students were given lots of water to drink and stayed under trees to keep out of the intense heat.
Surprisingly, the Monett band was one of the only marching units to play a patriotic song. They played the "Armed Forces Tribute" 15 to 20 times along the parade route to the delight of the crowd.
"As we were coming down the street playing, different veterans would stand and the crowds were clapping with us," said White.
In the end, the heat took its toll with three students ending up in the emergency room with heat exhaustion. They made it through the whole parade but needed medical attention at the very end.
"Everybody's okay, and everybody was able to travel home with us," said White.
Susan Childress travelled to Washington, D.C., as a chaperone and had the pleasure of watching the band perform in the parade.
"The trip definitely lived up to our expectations, and the students gained so much from the experience," said Childress, who also served as chairman of the group's fundraising effort. "I cried tears of pride when they marched by me with the White House in the distance."
White said the trip was especially meaningful to her and assistant band director Jared Brown because the band consisted of students the directors had been working with for the past four years.
"This is our fourth year here, and these kids are our kids," said White. "It's great to travel with kids you've spent that much time with. They made the trip easier; they were always where they needed to be.
"It was so cool to see how well they represented the community," White added. "The bus driver and the tour guide said this is the best group they'd ever dealt with. I was so proud of them."
MHS band members who travelled to Washington, D.C., are listed below by section.
Drum majors: Lara Ellis, Chelsey Jones and Logan Swope.
Flutes: Anna Arnaud, Kaylee Barnes, Leanna Marion, Crystal Martinez, Anna Salas and Keshia Young.
Clarinets: Mikayla Bennett, Alejandro Hernandez, Angelina Ortiz, LeAnn Verhoff and Samantha Vore.
Alto saxophones: Sarah Cuendet, Lauren Jenkins, Brandon Klick, Caleb Miller, Sarai Rivera and Thomas Willis.
Tenor saxophones: Jason George, Derek Holmes and Angel Townsend.
Baritone saxophone: Alex Brennan.
Trumpets: Bridget Barta, Nick Childress, Caleb Denny, Adam Mareth, Dillon Pugh, Bill Townsend, Jeff Weaver and Doug Witt.
French horns: Kendra DePreist, Austin Lemaster and Ricardo Ortega.
Trombones: Caleb Blue, Matt Bricker, Austin Cox, Catherine Cruz, Derek Hamm, Bobby Mobley, Michael Morley and Blake Pugh.
Baritones: Daniel Bryan, Charley LaGarce, JR Springston and Luke Verhoff.
Tubas: Kieth Christen, Sally Ferrell, DJ McVay, Micah Miller, Shane Solomon and Abbie VanNice.
Percussion: Alison Bekas, Trevor Duff, Melissa Gaspar, River Guenter, Abby Hearn, Brittany Huebner, Avery Hunt, Alex McCaffrey and Jordan Turner.
Guard: Kyra Curry, Holly Drake, Cameren Hawkins, Jenny Hopkins, Kelsey Kaiser, Hannah Kingrey, Emie Nash and Stacy Rutherford.
Chaperones were Geneva Blue, Doug Childress, Ann Ellis, Susan Childress, Dan Harbaugh, Deeanna Hawkins, Carmen Jenkins, Lane Jenkins, Melinda Mareth, Kirk Verhoff and Teresa Verhoff. MHS Principal David Steward also travelled with the group as did Brown's wife, Jamie, who served as trip coordinator.
"We appreciate the generosity of the community in helping to make this trip happen," said White. "We could not have made this trip without that generosity, and we were aware of the fact that we represented not only Monett, but the State of Missouri, the whole time that we were there."
The National Memorial Day Parade, presented by the American Veterans Center, is held annually in Washington D.C. This year's event featured marching bands, active duty and retired military units, youth groups and parade floats as well as hundreds of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.