Dr. Don Newbury

It was a statistic that my eyes locked on a few years back. Had my gaze been a drill bit, a hole would have burned through the headline.

   Subsequently, the stat has grown, its contemplation causing misty eyes. Thoughts scrambled, there is a yearning for “time out” to “sort out” significance in a wobbling world.

   On Veterans Day eve, the mournful stat saddened again: On average, 1,800 US military veterans die each day. The figure, at the top of my mind’s numbers, won’t go away….

Most of them, understandably, are WWII veterans, from the era of George Beverly Shea. Maybe you heard the comment on his 100th birthday. America’s beloved gospel singer said he’s been “long on the ladder.”

Veterans commonly request to have “Taps” played at their memorial services.

This seems ever so “doable,” doesn’t it? The tune’s span is seconds—not minutes—requiring just 24 notes. Now, this shocker: There aren’t enough bugler volunteers to provide live renditions. For more than 70% of the services last year at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, electronic recordings sufficed….

   Thoughts closest to my soul suggest the need to extend national calls for buglers—and potential buglers. The piercing imperatives should be pleas to institutions, organizations and individuals. Surely, in a country known for its volunteerism, this can come to pass.

 In the process, the lives of American servicemen and women will be honored in the most dignified manner possible.

There’s already a national organization dedicated to the project: Bugles Across America (buglesacrossamerica.org) The cause is a cockle-warmer….  

Most passive among us will quickly sound negative warnings.

They will point to the difficulty of hitting every note, and that there are no “do-overs.”

 Prevailing, though, can be encouragers who believe that volunteers will emerge, benefitting both those who blow the horns and those who hear them…

   It is more a matter of the heart than of the horn.

  Like the lives being honored, horn-blowers must be committed to giving their best effort.

   If there are sometimes mangled notes, let them but remind that we all fall short…

   “Taps” dates back to the Civil War.

   Though we rarely hear the words, they are worth considering. The five verses are attributed to anonymity, and here’s the first one:

   Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

   True then, true now….

A memory of some 40 years remains vivid. A graveside service for a military veteran had just ended. The day was cold and gray; sleet was pounding the canopy. At the final “amen,” two young members of the armed services removed the US flag from the coffin, then proceeded to fold it.

   And re-fold. And re-fold. It never came out right, this rumpled mess that they finally plopped into the widow’s lap. Their faces were crimson with embarrassment.

   At first, anger sprang up. Why were they sent? Why weren’t they able to fold it correctly? More “whys” had to get in line….

As I drove away, I noticed the two failed flag-folders huddling near the grave, perhaps wishing for “do-overs.” They were crying, their tears becoming ice flakes on their way earthward.

Their contrition framed an immediate backdrop for nobler thoughts. Maybe their hands were simply too cold, or the fabric too frozen, or their nerves too frayed.

My thoughts turned inward. Did I have knowledge of flag etiquette? Did I honor it properly at every opportunity? Did I have new resolve, as I know these youngsters did, growing from the experience?….

   Then, like now, I recall the little poem oft-repeated by the late Dr. Guy D. Newman, a wonderful preacher/patriot/president during my college days.

   It reads:

   No one escapes when freedom fails. The best folks rot in filthy jails.  And those who scream ‘appease, appease,’ are hanged by those they tried to please….

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com