Recently at a military funeral for an Air Force vet who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, the electronic device that was supposed to play “Taps” failed. The device is inserted into a trumpet that was supposed to be “played” by a member of the local color guard who serve at such ceremonies (it’s analogous to lip-synching, only it’s a trumpet).
Senior Master Sgt. Todd Kirkwood of the WV Air National Guard was at the ceremony. His role was to present the folded U.S. flag to the family. When the malfunction of the electronic “Taps” became apparent, Kirkwood asked the funeral director to have the family remain seated, telling him "We are going to offer this veteran Taps." Kirkwood marched to the bugler and requested he remove the electronic device and pass Kirkwood the ceremonial bugle.
"I marched back into position and faced our fallen American hero and his family and sounded Taps," Kirkwood said. "I could see within the first two notes coming out of the horn the emotional reaction (from the family). Some members of the family stood and placed their hands over the heart."
"As always after the final note of Taps, we render the final salute," he said, after which he returned the bugle to the member of the veterans group and attempted to march back into place beside Smith.
He didn't get far.
"The family intercepted me as I passed the tent and shook my hand and thanked me," he said "I simply told them that that veteran deserved to have Taps sounded.”
Please know that while I love the United States and spent my whole career as a DOD employee, I am not a traditionally patriotic guy. For example, I never recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing The Star Spangled Banner, or God Bless America--although I always stand respectfully--because I believe that such coerced public expressions of patriotism are not appropriate.
But Senior Master Sgt. Todd Kirkwood’s heartfelt actions were wonderful.