I spent 30 years as a firefighter for the city of Irving and retired in March 2014. I had the honor of being the first bagpiper in the department.
The bagpipes have a long history in the fire service. In mid-2018, a group of firefighter pipers and drummers from Colorado and Florida with the help of Belgian firefighters put together a trip to Belgium, Luxembourg and France to participate in the 75th anniversary ceremonies of D-Day in those countries. Before we left for Europe, I learned of the restoration of a trumpet carried by U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Wank who was wounded on Omaha Beach and laid on the horn for two days until he was found by medics.
Sgt. Wank survived and it wasn’t until after his death in his 90s that his grandson had the trumpet refurbished.
I also learned that a member of the University of Texas Alumni Longhorn Band that also performed was chosen to play taps on that very trumpet at the June 7 seventh anniversary ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial at Omaha. That band member was Kenny Bierschenk, a 1974 graduate of Weatherford High School. I had contacted him before we left for Europe to meet each other while there.
In locating Kenny after the ceremony, I also met another Weatherford High School 1976 grad Gay Knight, also a UT Alumni Band member.
I was taken by the love and appreciation of the French and Belgian people towards Americans. They haven’t forgotten being liberated by the Allied Forces. There were hundreds of people in period World War II uniforms that in fact were not Americans but French and Belgians.
On June 8, the American Firefighters Pipe & Drum Band along with the 300 member strong Longhorn Alumni Band marched in a parade through the streets of Sainte Mere Eglise among thousands waving the Stars and Stripes.
What an experience and honor it was to be able to participate in such an event.
James Hisey has been a resident of Weatherford since 1972.