News / USA

Bugler at President Kennedy’s Funeral Remembered 50 Years Later

Bugler at President Kennedy’s Funeral Remembered 50 Years Lateri
X
November 21, 2013
Military and state funerals include the playing of Taps, usually by a lone bugler. There is a shortage of buglers today, however, so the solemn music often is performed on other instruments or even from a recording. Fifty years ago, the world experienced the emotional power of Taps being played, as President John F. Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. This week, a group called Taps for Veterans honored the man who played Taps at that ceremony, in the process, highlighting the importance of buglers. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
TEXT SIZE - +
Deborah Block
— Military and state funerals include the playing of Taps, usually by a lone bugler. There is a shortage of buglers today, however, so the solemn music often is performed on other instruments or even from a recording. Fifty years ago, the world experienced the emotional power of Taps being played, as President John F. Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. This week, a group called Taps for Veterans honored the man who played Taps at that ceremony, in the process, highlighting the importance of buglers.

At Arlington National Cemetery, a bugler plays Taps at the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death. The event also honored Army Sergeant Keith Clark, who played the solemn melody at the president’s funeral. Clark was an experienced and polished musician, who faltered once during the 24-note piece.

To some it was a flawed performance, but to others, it sounded mournful and reflected the sadness of the nation.  

Bugler honored

Clark died several years ago. But members of his family came to the commemoration, including his 90-year-old wife, Marjorie.

“Well, we looked at it as a normal mistake a trumpeter can make, combined with the cold and the pressure and the length of time he had to stand,” she said.

Afterward, Sergeant Clark received letters of support, including from Eddie Hunter, who was then a 10-year-old learning to play the trumpet. Clark wrote back. Today, Hunter meets members of Clark’s family for the first time.  

“Being here, it’s a little bit overwhelming, it’s very emotional for me and to meet Sergeant Clark’s family. It’s just great,” said Hunter.

The tribute was led by retired military bugler Jari Villanueva. He’s with Taps for Veterans, a group that finds and arranges for buglers to perform Taps at military funerals and ceremonies. He said it's sometimes difficult.

“The military has been downsizing, and as a result of that downsizing, military bands have been cut. So there’s a lack of active duty military buglers to sound taps at funerals,” said Villanueva.

Storied song

Taps was first played during the American Civil War 150 years ago. A general wanted a different lights out call for the troops.

"The general was not very pleased with the call that was being sounded and decided to change it. What he did was to revise an earlier bugle call into these 24 notes that we know today as Taps. And it soon caught on as a bugle call of the evening and then became used at military funerals," said Villanueva.

David Michel plays bugle at Civil War re-enactments and wants to preserve the tradition of Taps. “That’s why so many civilian horn players are trying to take up the call to fill the gap for important ceremonies, for the burial of veterans, and other things as well.”

Villanueva said Taps isn’t the same without the bugle. “When you have a live bugler sounding taps, it’s a piece of music that actually comes from the heart and a recording just can’t really replicate that sound.”

That sound brings him to tears, said bugler and military policeman, Gregory Simms, expressing a sentiment held by many.

“It is possibly one of the most stirring pieces of music I’ve ever heard,” he said.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid