Remembering the Regimental Band's Maj. Herb Day
The Citadel and band alumni dedicate memorial stone in honor of former music director
As a young Navy petty officer in 1975, Mike Alverson stood in a hallway at the Armed Forces School of Music staring at a portrait of then Warrant Officer Herb Day. Day was going to be one of the officers in Alverson's chain of command, and he hoped the portrait would tell him something about the man.
"I saw this Marine with a look on his face that would give any junior enlisted the shivers. I did not know what to expect. I went to his office and knocked. He didn't look up but said 'Can I help you?' '' said Alverson, now a retired Navy commander and The Citadel's music director since 2004.
"I announced myself – 'Sir, I'm Petty Officer Alverson, and I'm checking in as a new staff instructor.' He looked up and he got out of his chair and greeted me with genuinely warm enthusiasm," Alverson said. "That was my first experience with him, but it was an indicator of the kind of man I would learn he was – he was such a by-the-book Marine, but at the same time he was so open and friendly and he would do anything for you."
Since that day in 1975, Day and Alverson would occasionally cross paths as their careers progressed. Neither knew then that Alverson would succeed the retired Marine when after 20 years "Major Day" would retire from The Citadel.
Alverson will be among those who will pay tribute to Day as part of Homecoming 2012 festivities at The Citadel. A memorial marker in honor of Day will be dedicated at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. The dedication is open to anyone who would like to attend.
The memorial marker sits at the Northeast corner of Summerall Field – where the band stands during each Friday military dress parade. It will serve as a reminder to all, but particularly future cadets, of Day's commitment to musicianship and his dedication to his students and developing leaders of principle.
"I remember as a knob we had to memorize all those memorial markers on the parade field and at the chapel," said Will Simpson, Class of 1998. "Twenty years from now there won't be anyone at The Citadel who knew Maj. Day, but this way people will see the stone, ask 'Who's Herb Day?' and maybe do a little research to learn about him. At the least future knobs will know his name, and perhaps his impact on so many of us who knew him."
Simpson, who was a trumpet player in the Regimental Band, led the effort to raise money for the memorial marker following Day's passing in September 2010 at the age of 68.
"He was the reason I went to, and made it through, The Citadel," said Simpson.
Day was director of music from 1984 to 2004. He's been called "Mr. Citadel" and a Citadel icon, but no matter what he's been called, Day touched the lives of many Citadel cadets over his 20 years leading The Citadel Regimental Band.
A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Day enlisted in the Marines when he was 18. While on active duty, he earned a degree in music from St. Leo College. During his 24 years of military service, Day directed the Quantico Band, 3rd Division Marine Band, Marine Field Band, and a Drum and Bugle Corps Program. He also served as officer in charge of the Marine Element Armed Forces School of music.
Day came to The Citadel in 1984 and the regimental band and pipe band flourished under his leadership. In 1991, The Citadel Regimental Band became the first military college band to play in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland. In part because of the band's success in Scotland in 1991, the Regimental Band and Pipes received a prestigious return invitation to the Tattoo for it Diamond Jubliee year in 2010.
Beyond Lesesne Gate, Day's talents as director of the Charleston Community Band enriched cultural life in the Lowcountry. Colleges and high schools nationwide have recruited Day to judge competitions on his rare free weekends.
"We are looking forward to this occasion to recognize a man who inspired so many during his tenure at The Citadel," Alverson said.