Mailbag: Show stopped for taxpayers' sake

April 20, 2011

On behalf of the soldiers of the United States Army Field Band, let me tell you how upset we are that we were unable to perform for the great folks in the Huntington Beach area April 10 ("Show does not go on," April 14). Like many, many Americans, we watched anxiously last week to see if there would be a government shutdown. In the event of a shutdown, no travel or unauthorized expenditures of any kind may occur.

As responsible stewards of American tax dollars, when we travel by air, we negotiate a steeply discounted price that is usually nonrefundable. Faced with the likelihood of a government shutdown, we approached the airlines and they agreed to rebook the band and chorus at no extra cost if we made the change very early April 8. During the wee hours that day, a budget settlement had not been achieved and we were forced with a hard choice. We could delay our departure for three days at no cost to the government or hope a budget would be passed.


If that budget deal was not signed by the president by early Saturday morning, it would have cost taxpayers as much as $25,000 in lost nonrefundable tickets and new tickets bought at full price. Because online ticketing was used, it was possible to send a mass e-mail to ticket holders informing them of the concert cancellation.

In our 65 years of presenting free concerts for the American people, only a tiny handful have ever been canceled. The last one was during the 1995 government shutdown. The Musical Ambassadors of the Army are dedicated to our mission of telling the Army story through free concerts for Americans, but the "perfect storm" of a pending government shutdown and a probable large financial "hit" to the American taxpayer led me to cancel the first three concerts of our tour, starting with Huntington Beach. I hope our millions of supporters across the nation will understand that it was the interests of the American taxpayer that we had in mind.

Col. Thomas H. Palmatier

Fort Meade, Maryland

Editor's note: Palmatier is the commander and conductor of the United States Army Field Band.


A tribute to Vi Cowden

Vi Cowden passed away April 10 at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. Vi was one of Huntington Beach's most courageous women. She flew military planes and delivered them from the West Coast to the East Coast during World War II. She was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. She received many awards and a Congressional Gold Medal — the highest military honor, awarded in 2010.

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