Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Becca Lair and members of the ISUCF’V’MB commemorated D-Day in France earlier this summer:
The Band Goes to France! Otherwise known as Why College Marching Band is Worth It
Hello there! My name is Becca Lair and I am a junior majoring in Biology, and, also, a marching band geek. However, while doing marching could get you ridiculed in high school, doing it in college could get you sent to France. At least it did for me and certain members of the Iowa State University Cyclone Football “Varsity” Marching Band. This year we were invited by the US military to perform in Normandy and Paris during their 72nd D-Day anniversary ceremonies. From June 2nd-9th I and 167 of my fellow band members traversed the beaches of Normandy, paid tribute to those lost in battle, celebrated French culture, and even played cowbell in front of the Eiffel Tower. Here’s my virtual tour, enjoy!
Up, up, and away! As you can probably imagine, getting 168 instruments and flags over 4,000 miles is a bit of a fiasco. We had to organize two flights with oversize luggage for the bigger instruments and carry-ons for the smaller ones.
After an 8-hour plane ride and a 4-hour bus ride we finally arrived at our first destination! Normandy is a pretty agricultural area and sometimes, if it wasn’t for the ocean in the background, you would have thought we were in Iowa still. Our first destination was Arromanches-les-Bains. During the D-Day invasion the allies built a floating “port” here where they could quickly unload equipment. Those black dots in the water are what is left of it, and there is a museum at the top of the hill.
On our second day we visited Pointe du Hoc. Positioned as the highest point separating Utah and Omaha Beach, US Army Rangers had to climb this cliff and eliminate the Germans to try to protect forces landing on the beaches. All the lumps in the ground are from artillery.
This is Omaha beach, one of the two beaches US forces landed on and one of the hardest hit. Now it is very different and has beautiful monuments erected in remembrance.
(photo cred on the next two photos to Chris Davidson, our awesome band photographer) Our first performance was in Sainte-Mère-Église, one of the first towns liberated during the invasion. Every year they have a huge D-Day celebration with lots of food, costumes, performances, and a parade. The guy hanging from the church is a mannequin they put up, one of the paratroopers landed there and hung for days before they finally got him down. No worries, he survived 🙂 We, on the other hand, almost didn’t. After performing with the Arizona Women’s Choir, doing our gameday “step-show” and a short parade, we were mobbed with people taking our picture, I guess they loved us. Also, for those of you who were wondering, I play the flag, otherwise known as color guard.
The next day half of us performed at the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer next to Omaha Beach. It is the biggest of the American cemeteries in France, and it is beautiful. In addition to our performances we had speakers, including Charles Norman Shay, a retired Master Sgt. with the US Air Force who was 19 when he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.
After that awesome experience we went to the historic town of Bayeux. They also have a cathedral named Notre Dame, though it’s not as big as the one in Paris.
For our last day in Normandy we performed at a smaller, yet equally beautiful cemetery in Brittany.
On the way to Paris we stopped at Le Mont-Saint-Michel, which was basically like stepping into a fairytale. The second photo is the view from the top, where there is a really pretty abbey. Every day the tide floods the area around the hill, making it look like this little medieval town just rose out of the water.
Bonjour Paris! Our last two days were spent in Paris, touring the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triumphe and the Louvre. On our last day we performed in Jardin Des Tuileries, a really cool park/zoo type place. Europe doesn’t really have much in the way of marching bands so they loved the spectacle of the ISU marching band.
(photo cred to Chris, did I already say he’s awesome?) Our last photo together in France! We made a quick pit stop to take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower and sing the alma mater, our traditional way of ending every ISU marching band adventure. We also played/danced to cowbell, which was probably the most epic thing to ever happen.
Thanks for touring France with me! I hope you learned something, whether it be about World War II, France, or how awesome college marching band really is 🙂