“Among the various Kansas organizations serving in the World war in other divisions than those heretofore mentioned, was the Holton Marine Corps Band, consisting of twenty-five men, which was finally accepted by the Marine Corps, on June 29, 1917. They were sworn in about July 10, 1917, and left for St. Louis and the A.E.F. a week later. The whole band was cited for gallantry, and sixteen of its members carried wounded under fire. Included among them were M.A. Bender, now the judge of that judicial district. Bender, who was forty-six years old, was one of the men cited. The band was the Sixth Regiment Band, and was through the Chateau Thierry fighting.”
William E. Connelley, History of Kansas, State and People, 1928
The Topeka Daily Capital reported on December 8, 1918, that at Chateau Thierry the band went over the top and rendered first aid to the wounded and carried them to the rear. Band leader Martin A. Bender reported that for two days they went without food or sleep and that human blood dripped from his fingers while he was caring for the wounded.
Bender was cited for his work at Chateau Thierry: “Acting as a stretcher bearer, he displayed great coolness and executed with great reliability the performance of many difficult missions while under shell fire during operations against the enemy.”
The enemy proved to be music critics. The Brown County World on February 21, 1919 reported that band instruments had to be replaced as the originals were destroyed in a German air raid. In the account, the shining bell of a bass horn was a giveaway to the instruments location. The day after the commanding officer needed music for a formal parade, so he had the band stand at attention and whistle “Stars and Stripes Forever” repeatedly while the drummers beat time on their canteens.
The band remained with the army of occupation to give concerts. When they returned home, they continued to give concerts, particularly in Armistice Day observances.