The trumpeters who auditioned for the honor of playing “Taps” are Helene Anglin and Erik Berthelsen, the son of a dear friend of mine. Both young people said in the article that they understood the importance of the day because their grandfathers fought in World War II.
I plan to attend Monday’s 9 a.m. ceremony, and I look forward to hearing the band play (Louisa will be among the French horns). Band Director Mary Williams noted in the news article that band members are encouraged but aren’t required to attend, and she’s proud that so many make it a priority.
She told Northfield News Managing Editor Jerry Smith, “While the high school bands wear many hats throughout the school year, playing for the Memorial Day service is one of the most important events we perform. Music is especially important in this patriotic setting.”
I know my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, would heartily agree. He played in or directed a band every year on Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day) beginning in 1886, when he directed his first band in Esbon, Kansas at age 15. In 1941, in the midst of World War II, he performed in and directed his 57th Decoration Day program as leader of the St. Cloud Municipal Band.
(I wrote about this, and my dad’s own tradition of playing “Taps” on Memorial Day, in last year’s blog post, “War, Peace and a Tradition of 'Taps.”)
I also am looking forward to attending Monday’s event because the featured speaker is Retired Army Major John Fleming. John is the former Cubmaster for Pack 344 (his son and Elias are good buddies). He served in Iraq from November 2005 to June 2007 as a military intelligence officer and retired from the Minnesota National Guard in January. He now works at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for the Office of Intelligence and Security.
I got to know John a few summers ago when he and I attended Cub Scout camp with our sons. He reminds me a little of my friend Randy Brown, who retired from the Iowa National Guard in December. Both men have the ability to command attention when projecting their voices – which is useful whether you’re speaking to a group of soldiers or a group of squirrelly Cub Scouts.
Randy writes the blog Red Bull Rising under the nom de plume Charlie Sherpa.
|Randy with his reporter’s notebook.|
Because he’s working on a book about the Red Bull deployment, Randy decided to travel to Afghanistan as a journalist. As I write this, he is embedded with his former unit, using his skills and knowledge to “explain the experiences of citizen-soldiers and their families, and how they relate to a larger picture.”
He explained his decision in the last couple paragraphs of his May 17 post, Going to Afghanistan:
So, at an age most men live lives of quiet desperation, I have chosen to be a man of my words. I still have some Red Bull stories to tell. I need to illuminate why we did what we did--soldiers, families, the U.S. National Guard. I owe it to my buddies. I owe it to our wives and husbands. Most of all, I owe it our kids--and the world we intend to leave behind.
Randy will return to Iowa in June. On this Memorial Day weekend, I am thinking of him and his family, and of all those who have served their country. Let’s hope we leave behind a better, more peaceful world for future generations.