On this Memorial Day 2012, I want to pause from the usual outdoors discussion and focus on something even more important to each of our lives—OUR FREEDOM. Truly, that hidden duck marsh, the rolling grasslands filled with pheasants or the lake beaming with hungry panfish would mean nothing to us but for the sacrifice of the many brave men and women who have served this country so honorably over the years.
Today, I want to focus on some music that you may not be aware turns 150 years old next month. Most of us refer to the music as TAPS, but it’s also known around the world on U.S. military bases as “Day is Done.” Indeed, before the 24–musical notes was ever played at a funeral the song grew in popularity as an American Civil War bugle call to signify it’s time to call it a day. Time to “extinguish the lights” (campfires) and prepare for a new day upcoming. It was sounded by both Union and Confederate sides.
For more on the history of TAPS, please view this short video:
Personally, I was first touched by TAPS back in 2003 at the funeral of my good friend and Veteran, Jack Holmes. It was a cold, blustery December day as I stood graveside with hundreds of other mourners about to say goodbye for the final time. The color guard shot their three volleys (21–gun salute), then someone reached over and pressed the “play” button on a boom box to play a cassette recording of TAPS.
At the time the whole ceremony was emotional, but it just seemed sort of odd to hear TAPS come from an electronic player. Years later, I learned how live buglers are in short supply making it a necessity in many circumstances to play TAPS in this manner. Many of us feel all veterans who have displayed the colors of our armed services deserve much better than a taped recording of our national song of remembrance. They deserve a live bugler.
It had been over 30 years since I last played a trumpet in high school. Even at that, my old band instructor, Gary Skundberg, would likely be the first to admit that I was “mediocre at best” when it came to my brass-playing music skills. Still, I decided earlier this year to purchase a new bugle and to eventually donate my time and skills in the playing of TAPS for military funerals when the need arises.
Here is a quick video I put together of me practicing TAPS in my back yard. I attempt to practice daily in order to stay polished for when I am called upon to help honor a true hero at the moment they are being laid to rest.
Many of us TAPS buglers feel that these musical notes, even if played imperfectly sounded from the heart, is still far better than a perfect rendition being played by a device using batteries. Quite honestly, the most famous sounding of TAPS was likely at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral and the TAPS bugler in that situation had a broken note just six notes in to the sounding. Rather than appearing as a mistake, it just emphasized the deep, raw emotions evoked by the playing of TAPS.
On this Memorial Day 2012, I plan to travel to several area cemeteries and sound TAPS as my personal recognition to friends and family who have served this country so proud and made tremendous sacrifices allowing us the lives we live today. Memorial Day is not just a long weekend or a national BBQ day…it is a day we remember and give thanks to our Veterans who have been laid to their final rest.
I certainly understand that TAPS will never appear on your iTunes play lists or on your favorite TV musical talent show. But I do hope when you hear TAPS sounded it stirs the emotions deep inside you to remember why many of you are sitting relaxing and enjoying yet another day away from work.
God Bless all of our military personnel both past and present. And when people approach a TAPS bugler to say thanks once the horn has gone silent…our response is always “it was my honor to have had this opportunity.”
©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.