Taps

My father was a veteran of the Korean War.

All of his life he was an active member of his local VFW. I’m sure those guys did a lot of things, but all I’m aware of is he cooked for bar-b-que fundraisers, called out the numbers at their bingos, things like that. The most important thing he did was play Taps on his trumpet at veterans’ funerals.

Just before his burial (this was 15 years ago) I kept thinking about how hard it would be not to collapse when they played Taps for him. I thought of a million things to give me the strength to make it through that moment.

It was a moment that never came. My dad was the Taps guy. Doh.

So there was a moment of silence at that point instead. I should have been relieved, I didn’t have to worry about collapsing, but I got angry. He’d spent so many years doing this for others and when his time came, there was no one to do the same for him. I didn’t have any brain left that day to think it out, that no one else was trained for this. I kept this all to myself, of course.

In honor of my father, I support three Veterans charities. My favorite is Help Hospitalized Vets. It’s a group that provides craft kits for patients in VA Hospitals. My father had been in and out of the VA for years and he used to rave about these kits and was so proud of all the things he made.

Here’s a pair of mocassins he made for me while in the hospital:

I can’t tell you how much these craft kits helped him pass the time or how they gave him the feeling of accomplishment.

T.S. Young can, he’s a veteran in Battle Creek, MI who recently sent me a thank you card.

I get a lump in my throat every time I receive one of these in the mail.

For all you vets and current soldiers out there, thank you.

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8 thoughts on “Taps

  1. I hear Taps in war-type movies all the time, only once have I had the experience of hearing it first hand.
    Years ago my Ex and I attended the funeral of his grandmother’s boyfriend. I had no clue he was a veteran, there wasn’t even a picture or anything at the funeral. After everyone finished speaking about him, they opened the side door… everyone stood and it became eerily silent. Then it began, Taps. I remember hearing his grandmother cry and wail like her heart was being ripped from her chest. This broke my heart and I began to cry too. I was the only one that cried with her, for her.
    Now, whenever I hear Taps I get tears in my eyes because of that one memory.

    Your father was a very strong man to play such a sad, but honorable, song over and over again.

    Thank you to him and all the other veterans and soldiers.

  2. Thanks for writing this. When my father died last year (he was a WWII Vet) Taps was played graveside by soldiers and they gave my mother the flag that was on his coffin. The soldiers had tears in their eyes. They were honored to honor my father’s service in such a way.

  3. It’s strange, I don’t know if anyone else noticed it was missing. No one ever said anything about it. Since I’d spent so much effort hardening my heart to get through that, what I expected to be the most emotional part, it was almost as if I had willed it not to even happen. Oh, Catholic guilt…

    A few days earlier, just before he died, we were all packed up and headed home. We’d spent two weeks there but had to get back to work, kids had to get back to school. The VA hospital was an hour into the trip, on our way home. I knew he would not last another week and that would be my last time seeing him. That was the longest hour in my life, thinking over and over, how do I tell my father goodbye?

    Would I kiss him goodbye, walk out the room and then run back in just one more time? How would I do this? It was an impossible thing to do, and back then I was in my twenties and preggers.

    That didn’t happen either. He died just minutes before I got there. We didn’t have mobile phones then, so Blane went in the room and was talking to him not knowing he’d passed. The nurse said, “You don’t know? He’s gone.”

    I don’t want this to end on such a sad note. He was in a ward room with four other semicomatose guys. When I went in there to say my goodbyes, even though those guys were out of it, I drew that curtain around my dad’s bed. I didn’t really hold back too much, but what did it matter, those old guys were toast?

    When I pulled the curtain back to leave, the room was full of people, I guess they had opened up visiting hours. All those people heard me and they were in tears.

    I was so embarrassed.

  4. On most days I think so.
    It’s amazing how time really does heal. It was years before I could even tell this story. And now, I can really laugh at myself about thinking I was “alone” in that room grieving it up when there were about fifteen people in there listening to every word and whimper.

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