Sixty-eight years later, 30 members of Nebraska Wesleyan University’s symphonic band gathered near Omaha Beach under infinitely friendlier circumstances to play music and pay respect to veterans of the D-Day invasion.
“Without them, who would know what the world would be like?” asked Kaitlin Zardetto-Smith (’14) of Omaha. “It wouldn’t be what it is today.”
The band played both the American and French national anthems as well as “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “French Military March,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Ave Maria”. Lauren Fletcher (’13) of Auburn, Neb., played taps while Zardetto-Smith laid a wreath on the beach.
Zardetto-Smith’s great-uncle had flown over the beaches at Normandy during the invasion. Before coming to France, she researched his experience in the war, unearthing photos, his airplane radio notebook and even his dog tags. “Laying the wreath was really, really settling,” she told the Lincoln Journal Star. “It was a very calm moment.”
“It was humbling,” said Associate Professor of Music Sam Zitek, who directs the symphonic band. “It was reflective. It was beautiful. It was inspiring.”