On Thursday, May 31, the UNC Charlotte “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band will depart for Normandy, France, where the band will officially represent the United States at the 74th-anniversary D-Day commemoration. Prior to its departure from Charlotte, the band will present a flag-planting ceremony at 10:30 am to honor veterans.
Each year, one band is chosen to represent the U.S. at the D-Day commemoration in Normandy. The honor was historically reserved for official military bands but in recent years has been assigned to university marching bands of distinction.
Nearly 140 members of the band will travel to France, where they will perform on multiple occasions, including a parade in the village of Sainte-Mère-Eglise, the first village to be liberated by American troops in 1944, and at official public ceremonies at the St. James Cemetery and the Normandy American Cemetery.
To help fund the students’ travel, donors to the marching band could name a flag in honor of a veteran. Band members will plant those flags – each one bearing the name of a veteran – at the campus event on May 31 and then will plant a second set of commemorative flags on Normandy’s Omaha Beach on June 4.
The 30-minute ceremony in the lobby of Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts on May 31 will include brief remarks from Chancellor Phillip Dubois, Director of Bands Shawn Smith, and donor and UNC Charlotte alumnus Gene Johnson. The band members will then plant the flags on the lawn in front of the Johnson Band Center. Following the event, the students will board buses for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, from which they fly to Paris that afternoon.
The history of UNC Charlotte is rooted in the history of World War II. To serve returning veterans, North Carolina opened 14 evening college centers in communities across the state. The Charlotte Center opened Sept. 23, 1946, and in subsequent years became Charlotte College and then UNC Charlotte. To celebrate that history and the “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band’s selection for the D-Day commemorations, the University has gathered stories from more than 80 UNC Charlotte faculty, staff, students, and alumni whose family members served in World War II. Those war stories can be found at normandy.uncc.edu.
In addition, the University will present a special video stream, “Origins of Opportunity,” on D-Day, June 6, at 3:00 pm, which will include portions of the band’s ceremonial performances and other highlights from their activities in Normandy.