Strike up the band
Whitmore to show off hometown for USMC band mates

By BRIAN HUBER - GM Today Staff
August 17, 2007

Marine Cpl. Emma Whitmore, a North Prairie native, is greeted by her family dog, Dee Dee, during Whitmore’s visit home at about Christmas 2006. Whitmore will return home again next month, performing with the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band during North Prairie’s Harvest Festival.

WAUKESHA - Of the hundreds of performances North Prairie native Emma Whitmore will do this year with the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band, one is sure to stand out above the rest.

Next month, Whitmore, 21, will appear with the band during North Prairie’s annual Harvest Festival, which takes place Sept. 14 through Sept. 16, direct from their base in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Whitmore said she is excited to show off her home area to her colleagues. Some of them are looking forward to visiting attractions in Milwaukee, and Whitmore will suggest interesting places to visit in Waukesha County, from area bars to Phantom Lake to running through the Kettle Moraine.

"I love to go home and see family and friends, and to go home and actually show the people I care about what I am doing with my life, to be able to serve my country and do what I love is wonderful," she said in a phone interview from California last week. "It really is a blessing."

Whitmore, daughter of Joe and Alice Whitmore, graduated from Mukwonago High School in 2004, playing the French horn and other instruments in the school band. She joined the Marines soon after graduating, and learned from a recruiter about bands on Marine bases.

After basic training and combat training, she entered the Marines school of music, and wound up in California, in one of the 12 Marine bands in the Corps.

Her father, Joe, said Cpl. Whitmore is a Marine first and a band member second, and Emma agreed. She said it is not likely her band members will be deployed to a conflict, but members of other bands, previously thought non-deployable, nevertheless have been deployed, she said.

"There’s always the possibility that can happen," Whitmore said. "As the war progresses, there is always a chance we can go over as troops are needed but for now, there (are) no plans to be called to Iraq."

But Whitmore and the band of about four dozen people are "constantly" playing their instruments, she said, if not in practice then in hundreds of performances every year, including the last two Rose Parades in Pasadena. The band plays on bases for ceremonies and other events, but also performs in nearby communities in about 100 shows a year, Whitmore said.

In those shows, it is up to the community requesting their presence to pay for transportation, food and lodging, Emma Whitmore said.

Joe Whitmore, North Prairie village president, estimated the cost of the band’s appearance here will be about $12,000. A fund has been set up at a village hall for donations. Donors and veterans may also get a chance to meet band members, he said.

Joe Whitmore said the plan for the band’s North Prairie appearance is to have them perform a field show - marching along with music - along with fireworks Sept. 15, with an appearance in the local parade the next day, followed by a short performance in Veterans Park to honor veterans afterward.

"What we wanted to do is set up something where we could honor and show respect for the veterans, mainly the World War II vets, to acknowledge their contribution and their sacrifice," the elder Whitmore said. "I thought it’d be a very special idea to have the Marine band come in."

But it won’t be all work for the band. In addition to the area attractions, Joe Whitmore said Emma volunteered the Whitmore home for a backyard barbecue.

"I am thinking that with graduations and family events, yeah, we’ve had about that many people before and we could handle that," Joe said.

Emma Whitmore has re-upped in the Marines for another four years, but said she eventually wants to pursue a career in elementary education. She said her Corps experience has given her leadership and teaching skills, through things like showing new band members the ropes.

But first, there is a trip home ahead of Whitmore, who hasn’t been there since last Christmas.

"I can’t wait to get there," she said. "It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a good show. It’s worth coming to see and always support your troops. They do so much people don’t see. The life we live, it’s a lifetime of service to the country."
How to help

The U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band is to appear in North Prairie on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, but donations are needed to help defray the costs of lodging, food and transportation.

Donations may be sent to:

North Prairie Harvest Festival/Marine Band Fund

c/o North Prairie Village Hall, 130 N. Harrison St., North Prairie, WI 53153

Be sure to designate "Marine Band Fund" on checks and correspondence.

For details, call 392-2271.

Brian Huber can be reached at