On Veteran's Day, the entire nation paused to remember those who have honorably and bravely served our country. Today, Baltimore's Marching Ravens is holding several close friends with military ties in our hearts as we spend time with our families and give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy.
One of those people is Dave Orochena, a member of the Marching Ravens Equipment Crew for the past year. Orochena departed for Baghdad this month for a one year assignment with the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority to help develop their commercial aviation, including international and domestic flights. There was no civil aviation operating in Iraq just five years ago, but today they have several airports operating with assistance from the U.S. Government.
Orcochena served in the Army from 1980-1984 as an Explosives Ordinance Disposal technician, and also went to Baghdad in 2003. He says, "There is a long way to go but I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the Iraqi's progress to a self-reliant commercial aviation network."
Orochena says that working with the Equipment Crew has been a great experience. "The most enjoyable times for me are when I can help out a band member…being there with a water bottle on a hot day, finding a spare beret in the bowels of Big Bird [the Marching Ravens equipment truck], handing one of my Slim Jims to Jeff from the Sousa section when he looked a little sad. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to see smiles of appreciation."
Nick Orochena, David's son, is a member of the Marching Ravens trombone section. The family lives in Potomac, Maryland.
Army Medical Corp. Sgt. Samantha Gwynn returned from a tour in Afghanistan in October where she served in a MASH unit. Gwynn is a former member of the Marching Ravens Flagline and later worked with the Equipment Crew. Upon her return to Baltimore, she presented an American flag to Band President John Ziemann. The flag was flown over her MASH unit in the name and honor of Baltimore's Marching Ravens.
SK1 Stephen Harrell enlisted in the Navy Reserves in August of 2002 and has traveled to many parts of the world in the years since. Harrell, a Trumpet Instructor-turned-Drum Major in the Marching Ravens from 2000-2004, first served in a cargo handling battalion based in Williamsburg, VA, and deployed to the port of Ash Shuaibah, Kuwait, to manage incoming and outgoing cargo in August 2005.
"I've loved just about every minute of the Navy Reserves," says Harrell. "Some of the places that the Navy has sent me for brief operations or training include Hawaii, Guam, Korea, and Bahrain. I've done and seen lots more than I would have had I not enlisted."
The newlywed Harrell now lives in Heidlersburg, PA, with his wife Michele and son Jake. He is scheduled to deploy with his current unit, Defense Logistics Agency in New Cumberland, PA, to Camp Victory, Iraq, in March. His mission will be to provide high-level supply support to combatant commanders and their maintenance units.
Harrell has two years remaining on his current contract but plans to reenlist and serve a full twenty years.
William Dick has been with the Maryland Army National Guard as part of the 1-175th IBCT out of Dundalk, MD, for 10 years. He served a tour of duty in Iraq from August 2007 to April 2008 as a senior medic on Convoy Logistic Patrols.
Dick was a member of the Marching Ravens Drumline from 1999-2006, and spent several years as the Assistant Percussion Instructor.
Dick has five years remaining of his current contract with the Army National Guard, and he plans to reenlist to serve at least 20 years, or more. He currently resides in Brunswick, MD, with his wife and daughter, and also has a son. When he is not serving his one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer with the military, Dick works as Lead Phlebotomist with Frederick Memorial Hospital.
According to Ziemann, there are about twenty-five current or former band members who have served or who are now serving in the military overseas.