FORWARD OPERATING BASE NOLAY, Afghanistan – As they waited in line for breakfast at the field mess hall here one recent morning, Marines heard blues music coming from a harmonica.
“They’re out of eggs right now, so I’m going to wait out here for them to finish the next batch,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Karasch, taking a break from his music.
Karasch, with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, has had a longtime passion for music.
“I played the trumpet in school from the fourth grade,” the Minnesota native said, “and then in high school I picked up piano, drums and guitar.”
He studied music in college, majored in percussion and received an associate’s degree.
Karasch said he taught himself how to play the harmonica on this deployment as a way to pass time, since he doesn’t have his other instruments with him.
“I got it in one of the care packages from my family,” he said. “I picked it up pretty quickly just because I have a background in music. I wanted to learn how to bend notes just to get that bluesy sound.” He spent his evenings in the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent, searching the Internet for harmonica lessons.
Other Marines sometimes ask Karasch to play songs, and occasionally, he’ll play “The Marines’ Hymn” to lighten the mood. But he said he usually just keeps his music to himself.
Though he enjoys playing blues music with his harmonica, Karasch said, he doesn’t really listen to blues. He grew up listening to classic rock.
“I’ve gotten into jazz and metal and every other type of music under the sun, especially since music school,” he said. “But the harmonica sort of has a blues history to it, so it’s really fun to try and get a blues song out of it.”
Music even led Karasch to his wife, Ashlee, whom he met at a bandmate’s wedding in January 2009. The keyboardist brought her as a date and introduced her to Karasch.
“He sort of tried to play matchmaker for us throughout the wedding,” Karasch said. “I left for boot camp Feb. 17, and we got married Dec. 30 of the same year.”
Karasch, an infantryman by trade, now works in the company’s intelligence section. It’s a job he said he has come to enjoy.
“I despised it at first, just because I signed up to be a grunt. But I’ve grown to like it,” he said. “Now, I don’t know which I prefer. I like them both.”
Karasch joined the Marine Corps three years ago.
“As cliché as it sounds, I joined because I wanted to serve my country,” he said. “I just wanted to do my part, even if it’s just one contract. I actually thought I’d be a good fit for the military and possibly make a good career out of it.”