Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day in Washington, D.C. In less than 10 hours I was able to make my way through the Museum of American History, the Museum of Natural History, the Air and Space Museum, the National Archives, Ford's Theatre, and the Peterson House. My journeys took me through the first inhabitants of the North American continent, the founding of our country, and the trials and tribulations that have molded and shaped our society into what it is today.
Now before I continue, let me establish one fact. I am not the American citizen that waves a flag and belts out "God Bless America" at the top of my lungs. I'm one of those difficult American citizens - the kind that believes in the ideals of the Constitution and the spirit in which it was created. I'm the citizen that our founding fathers depended upon -- the one that isn't afraid to question our government and work to ensure that it truly is functioning for the good of its citizens. I don't believe in "blind patriotism." After my experiences yesterday, my beliefs have only been reinforced. I've swum through the vast sea of American history and seen how important these ideals truly are. Men and women have devoted their lives, and even given them, for the protection of our country and what it stands for. To believe in anything less would be a dishonor their sacrifices. Being in Washington, D.C., was an opportunity to see our government "in action." Everything about the town screams politics. I've never felt more like an American. At the end of my day, I realized just how important this experience was. It is imperative that we learn and understand our past before we can come to terms with the present, or even project into the future. In order to know where we're going, we need to know where we've been. This is an important concept to the Phantom Regiment organization. As the winter season progresses, members are slowly introduced to the history and tradition that the corps embodies. Some traditions are taught immediately, such as standing in Regiment third, while other traditions are taught at a later date, such as the meaning of SUTA. The winter camps are more than just rehearsal -- month after month, students slowly undergo the transformation from auditionee to member. During spring training, the members of Phantom Regiment participate in an experience similar to the one that I had yesterday. Over the course of a few hours, members are treated to a "corps history night," in which they are introduced to the vast history of the Regiment organization. During this night, members learn the history of the corps, from its inception, through its multiple rebirths, to the current version that stands on the field. They learn of the triumphs, as well as the tragedies, and see how the ideals of the corps always shine through. Understanding the history of Phantom Regiment is essential to understanding the Phantom Regiment of today. It is the experiences of the past that have molded and shaped this corps into its current inception. We cannot truly become members of the corps and embody its ideals if we don't understand how and why we believe what we believe. "Corps history night" is an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the history and tradition of the corps and forge a deep and long lasting bond between ourselves and our organization. By the time we put on our first performance, we are not just a conglomeration of band nerds who all happen to be wearing the same uniform. Instead, we are the members of the Phantom Regiment, who understand and uphold the same beliefs as those who wore the uniform before us, and those who are yet to come. We become the living history of the corps, ready to write its next chapter and do our part to mold and shape the organization for future years. Someday, it will be our show that is played for members, and we will be the ones invited back to speak about corps life "back in the day." It will be our stories that connect members from the present to the past, and it will be our responsibility to ensure that the beliefs and ideals of Phantom Regiment remain a continuing legacy. Come tomorrow, where we are today is now where we were yesterday. Each day, each season, is step along a journey toward the future of the Phantom Regiment organization. We cannot, nor should we, move forward before understanding our roots. It is our roots that help us to maintain our identity, for if we have no identity, then what is left? It's amazing to see how many lessons in the "real world" apply to the drum corps world, and vice versa. I guess it just goes to show how important this activity really is. Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah is a political science major at the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native), and will age out in 2005. Past columns by Lanah Kopplin: The College degree Like spring training Finding a drum corps home The Last audition Turkey-induced tryptophan Rhapsody in the chat room Amazing grace Are you ready? Get out there and vote Reflections from Whitewater Methodical hard work and passion Here's to the behind-the-scenes people Drum corps friendships A new column by the Phantom Regiment's Lanah Kopplin