Skip to comments.Memorial Day 2006 -- Taps Vigil
Posted on 05/23/2006 8:44:40 AM PDT by gwjack
MEMORIAL DAY 2006 -- Taps Vigil
Son Jarrin is a third year cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He tells a lot of stories about the traditions there, but one stands out. It concerns the Taps Vigil.
The Corps of cadets at West Point numbers about 4,000. They live in a military-structured environment. They wear the same uniforms. They have the same haircuts. They eat in the same mess hall at the same time, and they assemble in formation at the end of each day rain, sleet, or snow, to hear Taps.
Taps is an old bugle call from civil war days. It once called soldiers to extinguish all lights, but more recently has become a familiar tune at funerals. The tune only has 24 notes and takes about a minute to play, but it stirs the soul.
When the Corps receives news that a West Point alum has been killed, the tradition begins. That night, about 20 minutes before Taps time, the Corps silently assembles on grounds surrounding a statue of George Washington. The assembly is voluntary, but every cadet shows. They dont talk. They just gather, in full dress uniform, to give honor and respect.
For 20 minutes, the Corps stands at attention. Twenty minutes. Try it. No sound, no movement, dead of night, waters of the Hudson shimmering in the distance, no breaks in concentration. One cadet last semester happened to be standing near a sprinkler. It came on and stayed on for the duration of the vigil, soaking the cadet, but he never moved.
At 11:15 p.m., a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace is played, and then Taps. When the first note of Taps sounds, the sound of 4,000 arms rising to salute is also heard. The cadets hold that salute until the tune is over.
Then they sing their alma mater. If youve never heard it, do a search for West Point Alma Mater; there is one at www.west-point.org. Listen to it. Just listen, and imagine. Imagine the voices of thousands of cadets present and cadets past singing the song in unison to honor their fallen.
We observe Memorial Day to honor Americans who died in war. I never knew most of them, but I suspect in their quiet moments they weighed the same limits of honor, duty, and country that I weigh today. What about America is worth dying for, anyway?
Surely, no one knows better than those who have done it. They ought to know. But we cant ask them. We can ask those whose bodies bear the marks of war. We can ask families and those risking their all today and willing to do it again tomorrow. But we cant hear answers that come from the grave.
Maybe we can hear them in music, though. If all the words in all their answers were reduced to a simple song, we would hear a melody not dated by the times. Its chorus would stir the soul. It would transfix us on people worthy of honor and respect, and reaffirm the values that set them apart.
Im confident we would not be content to just listen, however. Most of us would sing along. For those who died in war did not wait until they died to know what about America was worth dying for. They knew before. And every Memorial Day we pause to remember our fallen, we show that we do, too.
© 2006 Dale L. Jackson
A fitting tribute to our fallen heroes
By the third note of Taps I'm reduced to tears. Works every time.
Going to the Wall in D.C. also brings tears to my eyes. That place is sacred ground.
Some day I want to go to Washington and see The Wall and the WWII memorial.
But if you get a chance, go to D.C.
I'm not worthy.
I'm happy to hear you "get it".Welcome home! And thank you for the kind words about The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is a SACRED place to me.
I like to paraphrase a quote I believe originated in the Civil War---"So some of us went over to Vietnam,and a lot of us didn't return.....and if you werent there,you'll never understand."
I'm sure you Gulf War & G.W.O.T. Veterans "understand"
We here in Columbia have a memorial service after the parade...and they play Taps. Hardly anyone speaks afterwards, very quiet moment indeed.
This momument says it all for me...these people lived in my county, fellow citizens. I didn't know them before the war and I don't know them, of course, now. BUT...these people I will honor and keep remembering each and every Memorial Day.
Again,thank you for your service,and GOD BLESS AMERICA !
"Taps" is a lot older than the American Civil War.
British troops in the Netherlands, during the "100 Years War" were called back from taverns by a bugle call at 10:00 PM.
Tavern owners were told to quit serving at that time, and instructed staff to "Do Den Tap Too" (turn off the taps.)
Thus you get "Taps" the haunting sound of a day gone by, and also "Tattoo" (Tap Too) a military pagentry.
Please, this memorial day, recognize the American interpretation of remembering soldiers who died, and those declining few still around us.