Winston-Salem native Tyriq Evans was shocked when his band director asked him to speak at today’s D-Day commemoration ceremony in Normandy, France.
Evans is a member of the UNC Charlotte marching band, which is scheduled to perform at the Normandy American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
The event commemorates the 74th anniversary of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France during World War II.
Nearly 200,000 Allied airmen, sailors and soldiers participated in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944. The Normandy invasion was the greatest amphibious operation in world history and led to the Allied liberation of German-occupied Western Europe.
“I will talk about the celebration of freedom that so many men and women fought for and even died for so long ago so we can have this freedom,” Evans said in a telephone interview last week from Charlotte.
“Being granted this opportunity is humbling and exciting,” Evans said. “I’m proud to represent UNC Charlotte, my hometown and most importantly, the United States.”
The band also performed Monday at a ceremony in Normandy, and Evans spoke there as well.
Jeffrey Miller, the associate director of bands at UNCC, said he chose Evans because Evans is an inaugural member of the band, which was formed in 2015, after UNCC started fielding a football team.
Miller also said Evans serves as a role model for his fellow band members.
“He demonstrates passion, enthusiasm and professionalism on a daily basis,” Miller said. “In addition to his passion for the band, he is highly involved in other campus groups. These qualities make him uniquely qualified to speak as a representative of the band and our university.”
The 172-acre Normandy American Cemetery is on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the five Allied landing zones during in the invasion. It contains the graves of 9,387 members of the U.S. military, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy.
Evans is among 138 members of the UNCC band. He also delivered a short speech Monday at the D-Day commemoration ceremony at the Brittany American Cemetery in Saint James, France.
That cemetery covers 28 acres and contains the remains of 4,410 American soldiers who died in northwestern France in the war.
Evans said that the band will play the national anthems of the United States, France, Canada and Great Britain as well as “Amazing Grace” and the hymns of the U.S. armed forces.
Evans, 20, a 2015 graduate of East Forsyth High School, is a junior majoring in mathematics at UNCC, he said. He plays the baritone horn in the band.
He attended Easton and Bolton elementary schools, and East Forsyth Middle School.
Other UNCC band members from the Triad joining Evans in France are Michael Cardwell, Coleman Crawford, Allison Hampton, and Makenzie Lybarker, all of Winston-Salem; Jacob Beauchamp of Mocksville; Connor Beck and Chad Underwood, both of Thomasville; Walker Hall of Mount Airy; and Tia Wilson of Walnut Cove, according to the band’s roster.
While in Normandy, the band also will march in a parade in Sainte-Mere Eglise, France, one of the first villages liberated by American troops. The band also will perform today at the Jardin D’Acclimatation park in Paris.
Retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Earl Hurrey of Lusby, Md., selected UNCC’s marching band as the U.S. college band to perform at the service. Hurrey, who picks bands and choirs for the ceremonies, said that he was looking for a university band from the Carolinas.
“I have great confidence (that) UNCC … will provide appropriate and dignified performances for our ceremonies,” Hurrey said.