This Bugler Decided to Honor Fallen Veterans in a Different Way

Her soul-stirring notes honored veterans and comforted their families in a final farewell.

bugler-honored-fallen-veterans-country-extraSgt. Kimberly Paquet via Country Extra

As I waited in the VFW cantina, the phone rang. It was time. The honor guard grabbed their rifles while I grabbed my case and went to the cemetery.

It was a bitterly cold day, so I sat in the car warming up my trumpet. My mother, my grandpa, and my brother, who were members of the honor guard, sat with me as we waited for the funeral caravan to arrive. I have to do this right; I can’t mess this up, I thought.

I looked up toward the cemetery entrance and saw the approaching hearse. We got out of the car, lined up and prepared for the start of the service.

The family and friends of the deceased veteran also got out of their cars and headed for their loved one’s final resting site. The farewell began as the preacher said a solemn prayer. My mom and grandpa grasped the flag draped over the casket and began ceremoniously folding it. God, I said in a whispered prayer, this is my chance to honor this veteran. Please help me today to hit every note and do my best. Amen.

My grandpa presented the flag to the family and saluted. There was a pause, then a shout… “Port arms! Ready! Aim! Fire!”

One, I thought to myself. “Ready! Aim! Fire!” That’s two. I began to think of my starting note. “Ready! Aim! Fire!” Three.

“Present arms!” I slowly brought the trumpet up to my mouth and thought of nothing else but those first notes.

As I played taps, the lyrics and meaning of the song ran through my head: “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky.”

Here comes the high note, I have to hit this! My body shook all over from nervousness. “God is nigh.”

I finished the song, letting the last note trail off, lowered my trumpet and breathed.

I was a bugler. At that time I was in high school, and for five years there and in college it was my great privilege to render the last military honor a veteran received.

Even then I understood that I had freedoms others did not: going to school, running for student council, playing sports, attending church, and speaking my mind. I paid my respects to those who fought to give me these freedoms by exercising them often.

Today I honor our veterans in another way.

In 2010, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. As I don my uniform every morning and place the little patch that reads U.S. Army over my heart, not only am I reminded of my family and the other veterans I know, but also of those who lay in nameless graves overseas or are still missing. Now it is my turn to defend our freedoms.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest