D-Day Survivor Returns to Omaha Beach for the First Time, Brings Concert Band to “Salute” His Fallen Comrades

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Music Celebrations International is pleased to announce that Col. Arnald Gabriel, distinguished conductor of the United States Air Force Band for more than 20 years, returns to Normandy for the first time since storming Omaha Beach 70 years ago. He will conduct the D-Day 70 Memorial Wind Band on Omaha Beach as a tribute to his fallen comrades.

The day that Colonel Arnald Gabriel celebrates his 89th birthday, he will board a plane bound for Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport. This is just the start of his journey back to the Normandy coast, where he landed 70 years ago as a 19-year-old machine gunner in the US Army’s 29th Infantry Division.

Following the landings, he went on to be a part of the liberation of France from the Nazi occupation. He was honored with two awards of the Bronze Star Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the French Croix de Guerre.

On June 6, he will return to the beach for the first time since the D-Day landings of 1944, but he won’t be alone. For the 70th anniversary of that day, he, along with Music Celebrations International, have formed a 108-piece concert band made up of friends, family, and admirers from all over the United States.

After the war Col. Gabriel rose to become the Conductor and Commander of the United States Air Force Band for over 20 years. Gabriel has conducted in all 50 states as well as 50 countries, and led many of the best bands and orchestras in the world. He has since then retired, but keeps a busier conducting schedule than people half his age. The band gathering in France for this event is a special group of talented musicians that includes well-over 30 veterans.

The opportunity to bring a concert band with him as he returns to Omaha Beach, is something that is extremely important to Gabriel. “The medium of music is far more expressive than anything anyone can say,” he explains. “The most special thing about the trip is to be able to salute my fallen comrades.” This week, he will salute through music.

The D-Day 70 Memorial Wind Band will perform at 8:00pm on June 4 at the 15th Arrondissement Town Hall in Paris, and then will continue on to Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer to give a performance at 4:00pm on June 6 at the Omaha Beach Memorial on Omaha Beach, the same beach where the 29th Division, along with Col. Gabriel landed in 1944. The town of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer will host the group as part of their commemoration ceremonies.

Throughout the band’s time in France, they will have the opportunity to attend the Bi-National Ceremony held June 6 at the Normandy American Cemetery, headed by President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande. The group will also explore Paris and Normandy.

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