Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Idea Worth Trumpeting

I meant to post on this subject a few months ago, but other things kept coming up. Finally, an article in yesterday's paper has spurred me into action:
Inside Shelter A at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, a Navy airman in white uniform steps forward to present a crisply folded American flag to the family. All is quiet.

Standing off to the side in a black suit and fedora, Kyle Hantz pulls a silver-plated bugle to his lips. With just 24 notes, he completes a melody at once comforting and haunting: taps.

For family and friends who have gathered for the burial of the 71-year-old military veteran, the moment swells with emotion. Some lower their heads; others nod in affirmation, wipe their eyes or clasp hands.

Mr. Hantz began volunteering his services at military funerals after 9/11. It's his way of expressing gratitude to those who've served their country. "I try to do as many as I can," he said.

Problem is, there just aren't enough buglers to play for the 1,800 veterans who are buried each day across the country – many from World War II and the Korean War.
Since 2000, an organization called Bugles Across America has been helping to locate buglers for military funerals, because, thanks to the shortage, some veterans' families were having to settle for a recording of Taps played on a boom box (which some rightly consider a sacrilege), or an electronic bugle (which looks like the real thing, but the "player" pushes a button and the bugle-shaped device plays a digital recording of Taps).

People who have given their lives for their country ought to be able to be sent off in a dignified manner, and boom boxes just don't cut it. A colleague of mine at jazz camp plays in one of the military bands, and he talked about the emotional experience that playing Taps for a departed service member can be (in fact, he said he prefers not to know anything about the person he's playing for until after he does so, lest he get too choked up while playing). A fraternity brother of mine who works in the financial industry also picks up the horn again to participate in BAA, and he concurs that it's quite a moving experience.

In Texas, there are about 350 buglers who have signed up, but they could always use more. Feel free to pass this information on to any trumpet-playing buddies in your circle.

Now that's a sound sleeper: A man in Minnesota was stabbed nine times in his home and slept through the whole thing.

The No Fun Department: A Florida pub had a good time confusing its customers for years with signs that often sent people into the wrong gender's bathrooms. Now the father of a girl who was interrupted by a man who walked into the ladies' room has gotten the lawyers involved, so the fun is bound to stop.

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