Friday, November 11, 2011

Today But Not Today

The Veteran's Day I always remember isn't Veteran's Day.

I was a band kid. I was a band kid from the day I was born, actually. Band kids don't get all the same holidays as other kids. We play parades and ceremonies and special events. Memorial Day was the best and the worst of it. We marched in a parade to each cemetery in town, stopping for graveside ceremonies at every one.

A couple of years ago there was an article, maybe in the NY Times, about how there weren't enough buglers to play Taps at all the military funerals any more. Retired buglers were driving hours to properly honor their comrades and the service had started using fake bugles with a digital player inside them so that a non-musician could stand with a bugle to give the illusion of playing when a musician wasn't available. I appreciate their dedication to the pomp and circumstance but it makes my heart sink a little. In light of all this, though, you may not know that, traditionally, Taps is played by two people. One bugler stands near the grave and begins the song and the second player stands off in the distance acting as an echo.

Taps is, I think, just about perfect as a piece of music. It's simple but strong. It holds your attention but in a meditative way. Which, to my mind, is exactly as it should be at graveside.

Back in the day, when I was that band kid, we were able to do things traditionally. So when I remember Veteran's Day (or Memorial Day or funerals or the military or even marching band) I remember my friends, Darren and Paul, playing Taps, one standing close to our group and one a few hundred yards off, under the trees, being the echo.

We were good kids but we were kids. Meditative and respectful were not necessarily at the top of our priorities but on that one day a year I know we did our best.

Thank you to all our country's service people past, present, and future.


  1. I think this is my favorite post of yours. Very nice, my friend.

  2. The local ROTC puts flags on the graves where J is buried. They do it on Memorial day. I love watching them run around being giggly teens, but when they get to that grave site and raise that flag, they are all business.

    I can't hear taps. It causes my heart to fracture.

  3. Punk is a band kid now, and at yesterday's town hall service honoring our veterans, her band leader did it right - one kid played in the auditorium, one went out into the hallway to be the echo. I was moved to tears.

  4. From one band kid to another, well said.