SALT LAKE CITY, Utah –
Service members and their supporters from across the state gathered at the Tabernacle on Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah November 8, 2019 for the Utah National Guard’s 64th Annual Veteran’s Day Concert commemorating the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. The 23rd Army Band joined forces with a combined Granite School District high school choir of some seven hundred students in a celebration of music to “honor the men and women of the ‘greatest generation’, their commitment and sacrifices, and the pivotal role they played” in the nation’s identity. The band and choir took the audience on a musical journey from Pearl Harbor to the beaches of Normandy through four different videos, which included interviews with D-Day veterans from Utah.
Sgt. Spencer Frohm kicked off the event leading the 23rd Army Band: Stage Band in one of the most popular songs of the time titled “In the Mood”. Following this blast from the past, everyone in attendance sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the band’s accompaniment and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Denny Saunders leading. The choir and band then joined for the first of several joint performances in the former national anthem, “My Country Tis of Thee” under the direction of Leah Tarrant, choir director of Taylorsville High School.
For seven years, the Utah PTA and the Utah National Guard have sponsored an essay contest in which K-12 students with an immediate family member who has served or is currently serving competed for scholarship awards of varying amounts. The theme of the essay was “Why I am Proud of My Veteran”. Hannah Bell, a senior at Cyprus High School won a $300 scholarship. Nathan Allred, an eighth-grade student at Oak Canyon Junior High won a $100 scholarship. Tai Davenport, a sixth-grade student at Hill Field Elementary also won a $100 scholarship.
For 10 years now, Zion’s Bank has honored veterans for their outstanding performance in the military. Retired Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton received this year’s Zion’s Bank Veteran’s Service Award. Governor Gary R. Herbert named Burton the Adjutant General in 2012. During his tenure, Burton helped to launch the Utah veterans and military employment coalition and the Utah veteran owned business partnership. His work was critical in obtaining funds to provide mental health resources to Utah military members. His legislative work helped to expand education benefits to all service members in Utah, provided property tax exemptions to service-disabled veterans, provided employment resources and services to military spouses and enhanced education protections for military children.
During World War II, music brought an otherwise divided nation together. Music also lifted the spirits of the service members during this difficult time. The girls and boys each performed popular tunes of the time. Vickie Belnap, choir director of Olympus High School, led the girls “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and Jay Gundersen, choir director of Skyline High School, led the boys in “There is Nothing Like a Dame”.
Major D.J. Gibb, master of ceremonies for the evening explained, “during World War II, Captain Glenn Miller, a conductor for the army, noticed the troops looking tired and worn down. He decided to break from the traditional sousa-style of marching band to a bluesy rendition of ‘Saint Louis Blues.’ This upset his commander, but the visiting general, Henry, or ‘Hap’ Arnold, loved it, saying it ‘was his kind of music.’ He directed Captain Miller to form a band and tour Europe entertaining the troops. And that is exactly what he did for 14 months, touring 11 countries, broadcasting over 500 radio broadcasts, and entertaining more than two million troops overseas.” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Denny Saunders led the band in this legendary song.
1st Sgt. Lisa Blodgett took over leading the band in “Liberty Fanfare”, the composition commissioned to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Sgt. Tom Gunter narrated the piece. Saunders led the band in the traditional “Armed Forces Medley” and honored those of every branch of service in attendance.
Saunders led the band in the instrumental theme of “Band of Brothers” an HBO miniseries Band of Brothers depicted Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II beginning with their battle behind the lines of Normandy. The master of ceremonies asked if there were any present during the Battle of Normandy. Silently, everyone waited for someone to raise their hand. Not everyone saw this, but there was one man in the audience. He must not have understood what was asked because the guest attending with him told him and he raised his hand. Glen Ogilvie was present and upon raising his hand, received a standing ovation.
“Distant Land” was a song in response to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Jill Hixson, choir director of Hunter High School, led the band and choir in this moving prayer for freedom that sings, “O Lord, we are many; Help us to be one. Heal our divisions: let thy will be done”. Saunders led the band in “Hymn to the Fallen” to honor a generation of men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country.
Assistant Adjutant General, Brigadier General Tyler Smith addressed the audience speaking on the topic of “Service and Sacrifice.”
The evening concluded with moving performances of the band and choir performing “Who Are the Brave”, directed by Cecil Sullivan, choir director of Cottonwood High School, “Taps”, played by a solo bugle player, and Battle Hymn of the Republic led by Julie Hill, choir director of Kearns High School. Governor Gary Herbert took to the stage to direct the last song of the event, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, played by the band.