Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Father's Day Tribute

I am certainly counting my blessings this week. As the weekend draws near and Father’s Day is rapidly approaching, I feel very grateful that I have both my father and my father in law in my life here to honor on that special day.

I have always been close to my dad. Growing up a bit of a tomboy, I could be found outside as soon as my inside chores were done. I’d stay out until I was forced back into the house in the late evening.

As kids we played baseball, did balancing acts and cartwheels along the top of the fences, ran around barefoot (until my mother would catch us and then I’d slip shoes on but only until she wasn’t looking again) I loved following my dad around driving him crazy with millions of senseless questions.

He was always involved with some project or another whether it was building barns, planting gardens, landscaping, taking care of all kinds of animals, building fish ponds and water falls. As a child, I thought he did the coolest things. Years later, at the age of 81, he is still doing most of those things and I have come to appreciate those talents of his even more. My dad may have an incredibly creative side to him, but there is so much more to admire.

When my mother passed away, it was pretty tough on him, as I know it is on everyone who loses a loved one. But after losing my mother, his wife, my dad, stepped in and tried to take over where my mother had left off. This was no easy task. She was like wonder woman and my dad was dealing with a broken heart. Still, each year, because Christmas was my mother’s favorite holiday, he has a big open house for neighbors and friends during the holidays. He serves refreshments and does it on a Monday night so people can come for Family Home Evening. The kids can see his Christmas village, that takes him over a week to set up, that comes complete with two running trains.

He keeps a calendar of family events so he won’t forget birthdays, anniversaries, and always makes sure he sends Mother’s Day cards and Valentine’s Day cards to his daughter’s and their families.

He is truly a man with a good heart. I love my dad for teaching me that when I serve others. I am serving my savior. Those are not just words he taught, he taught by example. He himself would give the shirt off his back if he knew someone was in need. I can’t tell you how many times he has helped me when I was in need.

I could go on and on but the one thing that strikes me is that for his 80th birthday, we made a DVD of his life. At the end of it, we recorded my dad giving a message to his family. The one message he wanted us to always remember if wewere to remember one thing, it would be, “To keep the faith. No matter what, just hang in there and keep the faith.” Throughout my life, when I have had struggles or trials my dad has given me much needed help and advice. He would talk to me, help me, tell me to pray, and, “Jeri, keep the faith.” One thing is for certain, my father has always kept the faith. His testimony makes him the honorable man that he is.

I am very grateful for the role my father plays in my life and in the life of my family. I can’t begin to find the words to tell you how blessed I feel to have him with us this Father’s Day. I am also thankful for the example he is to us.

I feel so wonderfully blessed to have my father in law in our lives as well. He too is such an amazing man. He has fought a battle with cancer with incredible courage. Steve is a man with charm and humor. He has wisdom and is full of wit and an inner strength and testimony that has had a great influence on his family. My husband is the tremendous man he is, I believe, because of the example his father is to him.

I love and admire my husband for so, so, many reasons but one big one is the kind of father he has been to our sons. He is an honorable man and has tried hard to establish a good relationship with his sons. He has tried to teach them to make good choices and to live in righteousness. Through his example he has tried to teach them to honor their Priesthood as he, himself does. Now my oldest son will enjoy his first official Father’s Day with his own son.

What more can a girl ask for? Is it any wonder that as Father’s Day rolls around, my heart is very full for the wonderful blessings I enjoy? I have some wonderful men in my life. I’m thrilled to celebrate this day, to try to express my gratitude for the great fathers in my life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Taps

As the sun rises over the mountains, one can hear the haunting melody of Taps being played by a lone bugler in the quiet little cemetery of Mona, Utah. The bugler comes to play every Memorial Day in honor of the service men and women buried there.

Our family has a tradition of going to the cemetery on Memorial Day to see the sunrise ceremony. The flag is raised at half mast, we hear the gun salute and listen to the famous military piece Taps played before we place flowers on loved ones gravesites.

Listening to the bugle play always brings a lump to my throat, tears to my eyes, and pride in my heart. My father served in the Air Force for four years, two of which were in a war zone in Korea where he saw the devastating effects of war both among people and land. He has a deep appreciation for our country, for it’s service men and women and therefore tried to instill within his own family that same appreciation. He is considering a military burial when that time comes as an expression of love for his country and the way he tried to live within it.

There is quite a story circulating in regards to the origin of the melody of Taps. The story is as follows:
It all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army. The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted. The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. But, out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth's uniform. This wish was granted. The haunting melody, is what we now know as "Taps."

While the story is certainly touching, historians have checked the facts only to find the story is merely a legend. Actually, according to a researcher from West Point, there is no historical evidence that a Captain by the name of Robert Ellicombe even existed in the Union Army. Historians from Arlington National Cemetery agree that the song did indeed originate in 1862 and it was while at Harrison’s Landing in Virginia, that the piece was written but that is where the facts in this story ends.

Taps was written by Brig. General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War General. The bugle call was to signal to the soldiers "lights out." Oliver W. Norton, Butterfield’s bugler, was the first to sound the new call. Within only a couple of months of it being written, both Union and Confederate armies used the call.

Today Taps can be heard at the conclusion of Military burials conducted with honors at Arlington National Cemetery, hundreds of ceremonies at cemeteries around the United States and at private funerals.

Each year Taps is sounded during the wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, and it is still played nightly at military installations in non-deployed locations to signal "lights out."

However, there is one more account that involves a man by the name of John C. Tidball. He was a Union artillery captain who ordered the call to be sounded for a fallen soldier.
Army Col. James A. Moss, in an Officer's Manual initially published in 1911, reported the following account:

"During the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, a soldier of Tidball's Battery A of the 2nd Artillery was buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave, on account of the proximity of the enemy, and it occurred to Capt. Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most appropriate ceremony that could be substituted."

This may not have anything to do with the origin of the song, it is however, the first recorded instance of Taps being used in accord with a military funeral. Until then the call sounded meant that the solider’s day was done.

How fitting then, that if the call signifies that a solider’s day is done and it is time for lights to be put out, that the very same call is sounded one last time as that soldier or veteran is laid to rest. I think of the connotations this has with death. As they are laid to rest, the day is done, lights out, they are now laid safely to rest. It is not only honorable for those who have served, but it can be quite emotional for the family to hear their loved one respected in such a way. To have the call sounded, we are called to remember those who have given us so much that far too often we take for granted.

While the original version of the call was of course an instrumental piece, lyrics were added later. These words were written by Horace Lorenzo Trim:

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

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

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, goodnight.


Another verse of lyrics were added to a recording done by John Wayne, though it is unclear who wrote the words of the verse:

Fading light, Falling night;
Trumpet call, as the sun, sinks in flight
Sleep in peace, comrade dear,
God is near.

As we walked away from the ceremony, we looked at the gravesites of those who have gone before us. The cemetery is a beautiful resting place rich with history. Gravestones now weathered and aged date back to the early 1800’s. Many have short poetic statements rarely found on markers anymore. It’s not only interesting but educational to walk through the graveyard, reading the headstones found there.

There are men, some merely boys, and women as well, who fought and gave their lives so that I may have mine. And they are still doing it today. May I never forget that and be forever grateful for it.



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