An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Longhorn Alumni Band at D-Day Event: Have Piccolo, Will Travel

Editor’s Note – The Longhorn Alumni Band – 300 strong with 230 additional along for support – was one of the lead groups marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day Anniversary June 6. Former Daily Texan staffers Gaylon Finklea Hecker  and Susan LaRonde were part of the alumni band at the events. Gaylon shares her thoughts in this article. Also, attending as part of the band support staff was Rachel Davis, daughter of Friends of The Daily Texan board member Jim Davis, and her friend Sara Hemenway. Included with the article are photos by Gaylon, her husband Marvin Hecker, Rachel Davis and Sara Hemenway.

The band performed at Brittany American Cemetery and Normandy American Cemetery, where 15,000 U.S. soldiers are buried; marched in a parade, performed at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first city liberated by the Allied Forces, and performed in Paris on the final day of the trip.


Below is Gaylon’s account of the celebration.

One of the moments that Gaylon Finklea Hecker recalls vividly of the D-Day observation is the performance by the New York Police Department Bag Pipers.



“They were gigantic men with gigantic black feather hats and stole the show.

“I talked to several of them and they said,  ‘Your wonderful band made us cry… your music is so beautiful. Just thinking of your music now makes me tear up again.'”

Gaylon Finklea Hecker visits with D-Day Veteran

Another memorable moment: French babies making the Hook ‘Em sign.

“We have all teared up at the memorials and it was difficult to play sometime.

“Our biggest fun thrill was at the end of the parade when we filled up the square in front of the church in Sainte-Mere-Eglise where the paratrooper caught on the steeple hung for hours (he survived). There is now a dummy hanging there.

“It was a very moving time. We played The Eyes of  Texas and then the fight song and the crowd went wild. French babies were trying to Hook ‘ Em.”

The alumni band also played at ceremonies at the American cemeteries, where six World War II vets spoke.

“We performed the national anthems of  the United States and France, played “Hymn to the Fallen” and “The Longest Day March” from the movie with the same name,” Gaylon said. “It was stirring, eyes filled with nostalgia, the purpose of this trip to these sacred historic places.”

After completing the ceremonies at Normandy, the band  went to Paris to play near the Eiffel Tower; however, the performance location was changed at the last minute for security reasons.

“Another glorious moment was performing in a beautiful Paris park. However, it was disappointing because we were to perform at the Eiffel Tower,” Gaylon said. “The tour guide explained the threat to our safety was real. Three hundred white-hatted and orange-jacketed Americans was an easy target. So, to avoid all that the venue changed.”


Gaylon said everyone they met was gracious and accommodating and appreciative of Americans, and the Longhorn Alumni Band.


“ In a Stop ‘n Go equivalent I asked where the end of the line to pay was,” Gaylon said. “An old sweet French man said, ‘ Yes, the end for everyone but Texans’…and he moved me to the front of the line, Stetson and all.”


Another touching moment: “A French father explained to his 6-year-old, pointing to the 300 white hats passing in the village parade, “This is cowboys.’ ”

“The French love Americans this week as we saved their freedom. We are 530. Soaking up the experience. Pride. Grateful. Sacred memories,” Gaylon said.

The trip was a logistical challenge. “The big flags,  29 tubas, 45 trumpets, all the big drums except Bertha (she stayed home), etc., have been successfully shipped. In addition, 40 lucky piccolos, like me, are just sticking their little instrument in their purses.”

“It was a wonderful experience, and special time  with lovely, grateful accommodating French, and old soldiers back here yet again.”

Former Daily Texan staffers Gaylon Finklea Hecker and Susan LaRonde

Gaylon Finklea Hecker and other LHAB members also performed in Paris