Friday, May 13, 2005


Out on my AM run, I got to thinking, here we are, just over two weeks away from the Memorial Day Weekend. In my high school days, I lived in a town that actually had a parade - still does I'm sure - to mark the occasion. I played taps as the flag was lowered to half staff (here's a link for those of you unfamiliar with the tune).

Then, I was a hard core trumpet player. I practiced every day and my chops were good enough to get me to the double "c" in the upper register. I played in the symphonic band, the jazz/big band, in the pit orchestra for the various yearly musicals, and the marching band.

It was the marching band that I hated the most, mainly because of the hot uniforms we would put on regardless the weather - wool, dickeys, funky hats with feathers, know the look. We did earn one fateful trip to march down the main street in Disneyworld one year, but beyond that, the practice and rigor of marching was not all together my cup of tea.

Where I took the most pride and where I felt the most important as a musician and a trumpet player was at the tail end of the parade. All the town's folks gathered on the town green and all bands were assembled around the Fallen Heroes monument and the requisite plugged howitzer (which it seems like every town in our area had), and after the benedictions, the prayers and the first selectwoman said a few words, we usually played a hymn or the National Anthem which was always followed by a 21 gun salute ("ready, aim, fire" - 7 guns, usually M-16s - three reports) followed immediately by the playing of Taps.

I started as the echo. A more senior player did the up front report of taps. I followed, playing about 100 meters away using the middle school wall to get the full accustical echo. When I was a senior, I graduated to playing the first report and another kid played the echo. I always got teary just after the last echo reverberated of the wall. Most everyone on the green walked back to their cars or to their home a little bit sad and who knows feeling what else.

For me, I was as proud as every to be an American and realized how grateful I was that people were willing to put their lives on their line for our freedom. As they say, freedom isn't nor ever is free. But as we head into this somber time of Memorial Day, perhaps some of us should hang our heads a bit lower as the burden of responsibility for some recent military deaths hangs heavy around the necks of our leadership.

Me, I choose to look skyward, reach back to the deeper depths, and be thankful for those that have gone before and for me - From the real Minutemen (not the incarnation on the Mexican border) that fought the Redcoats back in the 1700s to the families that lost sons on both sides of the argument in the civil war, to the veterans of WW I and WWII that fought obvious tyrants, for the Marines, Air Force, Army, Navy, and the Coast Guard men and women who have lost their lives in the pursuit and protection of our lives and liberty, I give thanks.

As we move into another of America's heavily comercialized holidays, let us resolve to toss out the trappings, remember our fallen heroes and give thanks. May all our heroes rest in peace.


Owen said...

That is a great post. I have such a vivid image of what this great parade must have been like. I used to march in the band at USC so I hear you completely about the suffocating uniforms :)

Ken Grandlund said...

(pausing...closing eyes...silently thanking those who have served and continue to serve, despite their political misgivings, to help keep our country free. Free from foreign attackers at least.)

Thanks Windspike, for a great reminder of what Memorial Day is about.