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Carroll County bagpiper to travel to Normandy for 75th anniversary of D-Day

Carroll County bagpiper to travel to Normandy for 75th anniversary of D-Day
Lt. Robert A. McCurdy plays the bagpipes at the 50th annual Memorial Day Observance at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in 2017. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Piper Robert McCurdy has made it a tradition for the past 12 years to play his bagpipes during the Memorial Day Ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. He will continue that tradition for the 13th time this year, but the next day, McCurdy, his kilt and his bagpipes will board a plane to Europe.

McCurdy is one of a group of 30 police and fire pipers and drummers from the United States traveling to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France.

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“To be able to go over there and honor the greatest generation and the sacrifices they made on on that day in June is is just really overwhelming,” he said. He is not the only member of the group who sees it as a trip of a lifetime.

Their rehearsal will be the first time they play together as a group, but McCurdy said that’s just part of the job for the musicians who often travel long distances to play together for funerals or memorials and services. When he has played during the annual International Association of Fire Fighters Memorial, it’s more like 300 pipers and drummers coming together for the first time.

As the group travels through Europe, they have a series of engagements across France. The observance of the 75th anniversary is June 6.

For the first time since D-Day Invasion, the Army Rangers will scale La Pointe du Hoc. On June 6, 1944, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group scaled that cliff on the Normandy coast and captured it from the German Army.

An exciting moment for a piper like McCurdy who is interested in history, is the day the musicians will pipe over the Pegasus Bridge, following in the footsteps of Bill Millin.

Millin is the Scottish piper immortalized in the 1962 film “The Longest Day.”His bagpipes, preserved with the artillery damage they suffered, are on display at the Memorial Museum there.

McCurdy said there is a long history of bagpipes as an instrument of wartime, and pipers were often part of the infantry with Scottish and Irish troops throughout history. He started playing as a member for the Baltimore City Fire Department Honor Guard.

Fire Lt. Brian Conner was killed in October of 2006 while serving in Iraq with the with the Maryland Army National Guard. When he was honored at Dulaney Valley’s Memorial Day Ceremony the following year, McCurdy played in the ceremony. He has continued since.

Yearly, the ceremony salutes the men and women of the armed forces who have paid the highest price and honors service members killed in the past 13 months, according to a news release.

Another Carroll group is also part of the ceremony this year. Each year, the ceremony recognizes a local nonprofit organization that supports veterans. This year it is Common Ground on the Hill’s Veterans Initiative.

They are being recognized for “their mission to address the needs of veterans as they face the many challenges associated with coming home,” and along with this comes a donation to the nonprofit’s scholarship program.

The scholarships fund for veterans to come to Common Ground’s Traditions Weeks, which are lecture and education series’ that bring hundreds to McDaniel College each summer to teach and learn traditional arts such as music, woodworking and storytelling.

The Memorial Day Ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens takes place on Monday, May 27 at 10 a.m. at the Dulaney Valley Circle of the Immortals where 26 service members who died in Vietnam are buried.

The area is also home to the official Baltimore County World War II/Korean War Memorial, The Children of Liberty Memorial, a plaque dedicated to the seven Maryland service members who lost their lives in the 1991 Liberation of Kuwait, the names of the three Maryland servicemen killed in 2000 aboard the USS Cole and the names of the service members killed in the Sept.11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.

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The ceremony is traditional and includes music, speeches from local participants and dignitaries, a wreath laying and a 21-gun salute.

Peggy Marchanti, wife of fallen soldier Maj. Robert Marchanti II, of Baltimore County, will give the memorial address. Marchanti died on Feb. 25, 2012 from gunshot wounds received during an attack inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The ceremony is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-666-0490 or visit www.dulaneyvalley.com. The Dulaney Valley Circle of the Immortals is located at 200 East Padonia Road, Timonium.

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