Army Field Band senior leader says goodbye after 34 years of service

By By Heather Santos
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class John Altman
CSM David Keller and Colonel Thomas H. Palmatier at the August 14, 2009 ceremony.
The first ever Command Sgt. Maj. of The United States Army Field Band, Command Sgt. Maj. David W. Keller, bid farewell in a touching ceremony held at Devers Hall Aug. 14.

The ceremony, lasting roughly 45 minutes, was packed with Field Band Soldier-musicians and staff, as well as numerous family members and friends, some of whom traveled great lengths to watch as Keller officially hung up his hat, er ... beret.

Numerous awards, certificates and coins were presented, and as the commander of the Field Band, Col. Thomas H. Palmatier, pinned on Keller's Legion of Merit, smiles were abundant. Keller's face, animated as always, beamed with pride and happiness.

Keller enlisted in the Army in 1975 from Bergen, New York, and began his service as a Soldier-musician for Army bands as a bassoonist.

He served in several additional roles as his career progressed, including the distinct honor of being a drum major, a unique feat for someone of his stature-Keller stands roughly 5 feet 5 inches tall. Typical drum majors tend to be much, much taller (a fact even Keller finds funny).

The good-natured Keller came to the Field Band in 1992 as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the supply section. He made his way through the ranks culminating in his position as Command Sgt. Maj. of the Army Field Band, a title he earned in 2002.

Keller has seen many people pass through the band halls, both the old and new facilities. And, it was Keller that played a large role in acquiring the new facility, the building the Field Band now calls home.

"I remember visiting old Devers Hall off of Mapes Road many years ago. Keller was there, as were numerous holes in the roof. If it snowed, there would be piles of snow in the building," noted Palmatier, who went on to add that Keller's role in securing the new site was instrumental and much needed.

Palmatier expressed his gratitude for all the effort Keller put forth in making the Field Band a place in which Soldiers could thrive, citing Keller's exemplary representation of a noncommissioned officer who truly leads by example.

"He [Keller] created an extraordinary template that others can follow, which others will be able to use with ease when they assume the position of Command Sgt. Maj. for the Field Band," Palmatier said.

Keller stood in front of the sea of faces to give his final remarks.

He thanked all of the Soldier-musicians that were there--past, present and future. He had one special request, that the Soldiers' Chorus perform one of his favorite songs, a song that Keller noted "makes me tear up each and every time I hear it."

The chorus obliged. The Soldier-musicians sang, "Thanks for the Memories," and Keller's eyes, as they had each time before upon hearing this song, welled up with tears.

As he bid his final farewell, Keller, who began his career with the Field Band 17 years ago, looked out into the audience and said, "There is a staff sergeant sitting in this very room who will someday assume the duties here as the Command Sgt. Maj. for the Field Band."

In keeping with his character, Keller's ceremony and ensuing luncheon were filled with lots of stories, lots of laughter and lots of fun.

And, as Keller leaves behind an extraordinary legacy, the Field Band would like to express to him, "Thanks for your leadership. Thanks for your camaraderie. Thanks for the memories."

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