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TAPS: An Official Part of Honors Received at a Military Funeral
"Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air." ---Rod Powers
THE Bugler's Cry - The Origin of Sounding Taps
No Official Lyrics for Taps
The following unofficial verse is often used (author unknown).
Fading light dims the sight, And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. From afar drawing nigh -- Falls the night.
Day is done, gone the sun, From the lake, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Then good night, peaceful night, Till the light of the dawn shineth bright; God is near, do not fear -- Friend, good night.
United States Army Center for Military History
The Glorious and Somber Melody of Taps
Taps, a haunting melody that is uniquely American. When it is heard playing around the world, it is immediately recognized and universally known as an American call. Surprisingly, Taps was not intended to be used as a funeral ballad. Taps origin dates back to the Civil War.
Desiring a more melodious tune for the end of the day (lights out), General Butterfield of the U.S. Army in 1835, had taken the Scotts Tattoo and changed the notes to longer drawn out notes, with the bottom note being taken out. Taps was then played to signal the end of the day of battle.
The decision to use Taps at a burial ceremony arises out of necessity, shorty after the creation of Taps, when a Captain in the Artillery Company, who was afraid that others hearing the firing of the three traditional volleys, during a funeral for one of his men who was killed, would think that fighting had renewed. So he had a bugler sound the notes of Taps instead. This is the first time on record that Taps was sounded at a funeral. After the Civil War, Taps was played at funerals all the time. It was not until 1981,Taps officially became recognized in manuals as being part of military funerals.
U.S. Army Bugler
Playing of Taps
Veterans receive special honors at their funerals, if they or their families request these honors. It does not matter whether the veteran died in action or not, all veterans certainly deserve special attention.
The playing of Taps is included as part of the special Military honors. After the honor guard presents the deceased veteran’s loved ones with the burial flag, a bugle player will play Taps.
Sadly, there are fewer military bugle players in existence in the modern-day military. If a bugle player is not available, many families request a bugle player from a local Boy Scout troop, high school band or church music group. As a last resort, if none of these options can be worked out, the family may request the playing of a previously recorded version of Taps.
Arlington National Cemetery
One Somber Day Long Ago
On November 5th, so long ago, on a somber, overcast, cool day of drizzling rain, my family and I sat looking at a flag-draped casket. That is one memory that will forever remain rooted in the recesses of my mind; those brilliant colors of our country's flag popping against the gray skies of that day which seemed to envelope one all around and reach down to the very ground, damp and cold.
Then too, I remember being almost mesmerized by the young honor guard member who deftly and with such great care, began to fold the flag. Once folded, he began to move and my eyes followed him to where he stood directly in front of my dear mother and with great respect, presented the flag to my mother. I can still see my mother's trembling hands taking the flag from the young honor guard. I heard my mother say, in a faint whisper of a voice, "Thank you."
The most stirring memory of that somber day, is when that lone bugler began to play the haunting melody of Taps. Those first three notes set the tone. The quote above states it so eloquently for truly its echoes linger in the heart. Anyone who has attended a U.S. Military funeral, can attest to just how hearing Taps being played during this emotional time, most assuredly brings a tear to one's eye. Even those most hardened of hearts, when they hear the haunting melody of Taps being played, will begin to cry.
At one point, I looked up and noticed in the distance a bit, a seven-person firing party. When it came time for them to perform the standard rifle salute, shooting off three volleys of rifle fire, I remember being startled each time as the shots rang out and cracked the silence and stillness in the air.
Fort Benning, Georgia Main Cemetery - Where My Dad Is Buried
Draping of the Casket with the American Flag
Draping of the Funeral Flag
Prior to the start of the ceremony, service members drape the American flag over the closed casket, making it present throughout the entire ceremony. In most cases, no flower arrangements rest on top of the casket, but some families may wish to request a crescent-shaped arrangement from the florist to place on the open lid of the coffin in the upper-left corner.
Presentation of the Flag
Flag Folding and Presentation
An honor guard of two or more members of the military is provided by the Department of Defense. At least one member will be from the branch in which the veteran served. At the grave site, once the burial service concludes, the honor guard member from the veteran’s parent branch folds the funeral flag and presents it to the veteran’s family.
Standard Rifle Salute
An Additional Honor May Include a Standard Rifle Salute
A local Veterans Service Organization (VSO), in cooperation with the Department of Defense, may perform a military rifle salute if available and requested by the family. The standard rifle salute consists of a seven-person firing party shooting off three volleys of rifle fire.
Have you ever been present and heard TAPS being played at a U.S. Military funeral?
Veterans' Day Will Always Have Special Significance
Veterans' Day has always had a special significance in my heart because of my dad and all other veterans who are serving or who have served our country.
Since the events of last Veterans' Day in 2012 that transpired which directly impacted my life on that very day, and I lived to tell about it, I am truly honored to have been asked to share my story of that unforgettable day in the publication of an e-book, which helps veterans suffering from PTSD. Such a cause is near and dear to my heart because of my dad.
Many wonderful writers have also contributed their true life accounts, which all make for fascinating reading, both for not only mysterious encounters and happenings, but for those miraculous encounters, which is truly what I consider what happened to me on the 2012 Veterans' Day holiday to be, a miraculous encounter. God bless our veterans!
© Copyright Faith Reaper, November 12, 2013