As the Fort Mill High School Marching Band prepares for a trip to Normandy, France, the musicians and leaders invites the community to join them for a send-off concert 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
At the concert, the band will play all of the music it plans to perform at the Normandy American Cemetery on April 1, including “Band of Brothers” and “Hymn to the Fallen.” In addition to the performance, the band will get a send-off from Mayor Guynn Savage and town officials. The band will honor members of the Fort Mill VFW and American Legion Post 43, who partnered with the band on fundraisers for the trip.
Among those to be honored at the concert are relatives of the 28 U.S. armed forces members from Fort Mill who died in World War II. Band officials have spent many months researching the service members and are excited to have some of the families represented at the send-off concert.
A 16-page program will be available at the concert, said band assistant Jason Ford, and will include information on how Fort Mill answered the call to service during the war, from long shifts at Springs Mills to finish government contracts and holding scrap metal drives, to teachers and students from Fort Mill High enlisting.
Band parents Celine Thiria and Glenda Tennis have made a replica of the Army-Navy “E” service award banner to display at the concert and Normandy American Cemetery. Springs Mills in Fort Mill received the banner for completing every wartime government contract on time for three years.
The original banner was presented in Fort Mill at the National Guard Armory on Elliott Street in 1943. Stars were later added to it for each year of recognition.
In addition to preparing for the concert in Normandy, the band has watched excerpts from the WWII film “Saving Private Ryan” and TV miniseries “Band of Brothers” and will hear from a speaker about the Army Rangers at Pointe du Hoc and the Allies’ D-Day assault on Omaha Beach.
“It is important that 21st century students know the price that was paid during World War II to stop fascism and to restore freedom in thousands of places across the globe,” Ford said.
“We especially wanted our students to learn about the 28 men from Fort Mill who gave their lives during World War II and the hundreds of others from Fort Mill who served with honor and returned home,” said Ford.
The Fort Mill Band was invited to perform at the Normandy American Cemetery last year and has been fundraising for the trip since. In addition to the April 1 performance, the students will visit the D-Day museum, Eiffel Tower and other French landmarks.