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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kuwait Chronicle II

To The Color

I was engrossed in my habitual evening run on the track when it blared out from the GIANT VOICE, i.e. the loudspeakers that blanket Camp Arifjan; it was the bugle call for "Retreat" followed closely by "To The Color."  My run abruptly terminated as I came to attention and rendered honors to the Flag.  This is a daily event on Army installations across the US (and the world), but it stopped my usual activities for a moment and caused me to reflect upon the day, the mission and the symbol our Nation.

The history of the bugle call is long and distinguished, but even before there were bugles, there were drums.  Drums constitute the original "you've got mail" messaging system, and their place in tribal history is well-known.  But the use of bugles for calls to arms as well as all the other daily soldiering tasks, is much more modern.  The British introduced the bugle in Colonial America, and the instrument was used as a signal in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. The unique calls evolved out of the interaction between the Continental Army and the French and English armies.  Eventually, each branch of the Army developed its own set of signals.  The Infantry used drum beats while the Cavalry and Artillery used bugle calls.

The day begins with "Reveille," and there are a series of bugle calls that follow until "Taps."  Taps has its own unique history dating back to the Civil War.  It began as a revised version of "Lights Out" to mark the end of the day, and it was likely borrowed from the French.  However, Civil War General Danial Butterfield wanted a kinder, gentler end to the evening, and in 1862, the Taps as we know it was born.

I am a trumpet player through and through, and one of the very first tunes I ever played was Taps.  It is played, of course, at military funerals, and the emotions that hearing that simple, haunting tune evoke cannot adequately be described...they must be felt.  Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines all keenly feel a certain sadness whenever Taps is played.  We wear our military pride and tradition in our hearts, and that lilting melody tugs at the strings every time.

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