Recently, Randy Hardman, a friend of mine sent me a link to a CBS news report done by Steve Hartman. It is one of those stories that play at the end of the evening news. You know the kind that is supposed to leave you with a good feeling inside, after the usual bad news of the world around us. Steve Hartman is this generation’s Charles Kuralt. He finds stories and people that make this country what it is-a great place to live.
The link takes me to a story of man in Tacoma, Wash. Each evening for the last few years Don Brittian steps onto his porch at the close of day and pays the same 24 notes. We all have heard this tune most likely many times before. They are 24 notes that inspire you to pause and think about what they mean to all of us. The notes are of the tune we all know as “Taps.”
After watching the story, it reminds me that we soon will have a day to remember and honor those men and women who served our country.
This Sunday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. It is a day meant to remember not only those who have served, but for those who are presently in the military. Across this nation, flags will fly from front porches and new small flags will mark the graves of those who served in the military and have passed into history.
We have set aside this day to honor those who are still with us. There are no longer any living veterans from the First World War. The last veteran of that war, Frank Buckles, called West Virginia his home and he passed away over a year ago, in February 2011.
Veterans from the Second World War are now in their 80s and it is estimated that we lose nearly 700 each day. We often think of veterans as those who served during times of war. But the truth is that millions of Americans have served our country in both times of war and peace. The passage of time and age take from us those who have served and helped to keep our country strong and free since the first Veterans Day was celebrated. Until the mid-1950s, the day was called Armistice Day. Shortly after it was signed into law by Dwight Eisenhower, Congress changed it to what we know it as today, Veterans Day.
As I listened to the man in the news story play those 24 notes, I realized I had taken for granted that solemn tune he was playing and knew nothing of its origin. When I was in the military, the tune was played at the end of the day, when someone from my base had been killed in Vietnam.
After doing some research, I found the tune has been around since the mid-1830s. In the early days of the Civil War, General Daniel Butterfield’s slightly changed the tune’s arrangement to what is the traditional tune we hear today. Butterfield’s bugler, Oliver Norton, first played the tune at the general’s command in Virginia. It was soon adopted by both the northern and southern armies; it became known as “Taps”. The tune is sometimes called Butterfield’s Lullaby. It is also called by its first line of its lyrics, “Day is Done”.
In 1862, a soldier in the 2nd Artillery Battery died and his commander, Captain John Tidball, felt the man was so excellent a soldier he should be honored at the time of his burial.
He asked his superiors to have permission for a military salute, rifles being fired over the grave. His request was denied. Tidball instead had the 24 notes of the tune played over the man’s grave. Since that first playing during a Civil War burial, the tradition has been repeated countless times and each time the sentiment of each note still resonate the honor that is paid to the fallen.
As I looked on my computer screen I read for the first time the lyrics of the melody. I found them to be as inspiring as the 24 notes of the tune.
Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this know
God is nigh
Twenty-four notes or the 66 words can never express the honor we all should have for our country’s Veterans, but in some small way, it is the only way we can outwardly show how important they are to each of us.
I remember one evening last year, when we were honored to have the Field of Flags in our community, my wife and I were there for the end of day. The night had come upon the sight and in the twilight dozens of people stood silent, waiting. No one saying a word. Then the crisp sound of a trumpet played in the approaching night.
Perhaps in some ways the tune is not meant for us, but for Him that is in the last line of lyrics, God is nigh. Perhaps, when He hears these 24 notes he welcomes home an American Veteran.
This Sunday remember and honor the veterans of our community, they are our neighbors, our friends, and family. They are American Veterans. Show your support with the red, white, and blue of the flag. Remember at sunset in Tacoma Wash., Don Brittian will once again play those 24 notes, if we listen with our hearts we may be able to hear Thru the Lens.
This coming Monday, Nov. 12, at noon at West Virginia Northern Community College in New Martinsville there will be a presentation of the film produced for Veterans Day. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome to come and share the moment to honor our veterans.
The film is a beginning for the producers to start collecting images and information about our veterans for future generations. I would also like to thank those that helped make this program possible with their help and information.