323rd Army Band Pays Tribute

By Staff Sergeant Marcia Oshinski
323rd Army Band

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On March 20, 2002 the 323D Army Band joined the Fort Sam Houston and San Antonio communities in paying their final respects to Sergeant Major of the Army (Retired) Leon L. Van Autreve, the fourth Sergeant Major of the Army. The entire funeral was organized and led by Noncommissioned Officers of Fort Sam Houston. Sergeant Major Beth Hammer was the consummate professional leading the band in this solemn yet high profile event. At the request of SMA Van Autreve, the band performed “The Lord’s Prayer” and “On Eagles Wings” outside Dodd Field Chapel on Fort Sam Houston during the movement of the casket. Sergeant First Class Aulio Marroquin arranged these hymns as requested by the family. During the memorial service, pianist Staff Sergeant Stephen Crum, accompanied a vocalist who sang the “Theme from Love Story”. Leading the funeral procession to the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, the band performed “Army of the Nile”, “Vanished Army” and “Voice of the Guns” led by Drum Major Sergeant First Class Alan Strickland. The band performed “Wind Beneath My Wings” as the casket was downloaded from the caisson. Full military honors were afforded the Sergeant Major of the Army during the internment ceremony. During the memorial service and at graveside, Staff Sergeant Robert Tilghman twice rendered flawless renditions of “Taps” truly honoring this great soldier. The ceremony concluded with the band performing “God Bless the U.S.A.”, “Song of the Army Medic” and “The Army Goes Rolling Along”.

Many dignitaries were in attendance for this solemn tribute. Among those in attendance were General John Abrahms, TRADOC Commander and Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley. Also, four retired Sergeants Major of the Army were present.

SMA Van Autreve, born January 29, 1920 in Ekloo, Belgium, served as Sergeant Major of the Army from 1973 to 1975. He entered the U.S. Army from Delphos, Ohio on October 9, 1941. He participated in the invasion of Africa with the 60th Raiders, the invasion of Sicily and the Normandy invasion D+2. SMA Van Autreve served tours in Germany, Indonesia and Korea. He served two tours in Vietnam as Command Sergeant Major of the 20th Engineer Brigade. Prior to his selection as Sergeant Major of the Army, he served four years as Command Sergeant Major of units in Alaska. He retired after 32 years of dedicated service.

Sergeant Major of the Army Van Autreve was a pillar in the Fort Sam Houston community. He actively participated in community events and regularly attended ceremonies, parades and reviews at Fort Sam Houston. He was always supportive of the 323rd Army Band and constantly expressed his appreciation for their musical performances. Sergeant Major of the Army Van Autreve will be missed by all whose lives he touched.

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