Taps is traditionally played when we honor our fallen. With only 24 notes, the haunting melody known as "Taps" often brings tears to the eyes of those grieving. It has spawned various legends. An example is this one about an Union Army Captain, which is in The Conservative Voice:
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.
...It was his own 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 story goes on to tell of how the dead son had a paper on which he'd written the tune for Taps. The song was played for his funeral. A moving tale, but it is untrue. The true story appears below, after a tribute to two of our fallen military men.
The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced the deaths of two US Army personnel. They were both killed in Afghanistan and in vehicle-related incidents.
Staff Sergeant William R. Neil Jr.
Staff Sergeant William R. Neil Jr., a decorated Green Beret, was killed on March 25, 2008 during combat near Sperwan Ghar in Afghanistan. The 38-year-old was killed when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED). He was on his second tour in Afghanistan, assigned to the Army 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group as a paratrooper.
According to The Record online:
Staff Sgt. William R. Neil, 38, enlisted in the Army in 1998 as a supply specialist and was assigned to the 4th Ranger Training Battalion at Fort Benning, Ga. The Jersey City native and Hudson Catholic High School alumnus later graduated from Ranger School and completed the Special Forces Qualifications Course. He joined the Green Berets in 2006.
"Billy was a kind and generous person who loved both his family as well as serving his country," his family said in a statement Monday night. "He will be sorely missed by family, friends and his comrades still fighting for the cause Billy so dearly believed in. He is a true patriot who will never be forgotten."
This story on NJ.com relates how Staff Sergeant Neil had given up a career on Wall Street to enlist:
The statement the family released described Neil as a dedicated soldier who did stints in both the Navy and the Army. In his down time, he enjoyed restoring classic cars, traveling and photography. He also loved reading nonfiction and historical publications and dining on Italian and Mexican food.
Neil was born in Jersey City and graduated from Hudson Catholic High School in 1987, his family said. He enlisted in the Navy after graduation and served for four years.
When he returned home, he worked for five years on Wall Street. But he eventually went back into the military, enlisting in the Army in 1998 as a supply specialist.
Neil is at least the 10th service member with New Jersey ties to die in Afghanistan since the war began in the fall of 2001. An additional 88 service members with ties to the state have died in Iraq.
Staff Sergeant Neil received several medals and awards during his military career, including the Army Commendation Medal and six Army Achievement Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, Weapons Qualification Badge, Special Forces Tab, Ranger tab, Parachutist badge and the Good Conduct Medal. He is expected to receive the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman's Badge posthumously.
William Neil, Jr. is survived by his parents, William and Patricia Neil of Holmdel, sisters Patricia Neil, Barbara Esposito and Veronica Cozzi, and his girlfriend, Lorraine Cappuccino.
This link offers some perspective about the role our military is playing in the area of Afghanistan where William Neil died:
Since the fall of 2006, U.S. Special Forces have been working to train Afghan military and police units to prevent a resurgence of Taliban activity in the Sperwan Ghar region, a joint command statement said.
The town of Sperwan Ghar sits near the center of the hotly contested Panjjwayi Province, an area where both the U.S. and Canadian forces have reported successes in getting the civilian populace to move back into the area. Before the Taliban, it had been a hiding place for the Mujahadeen in their fight against the Soviet invaders.
Reports describe the area as rough, mine-laden terrain with fields separated by hedgerows and mud walls as high as 9 feet tall.
Private 1st Class Antione V. Robinson
Private 1st Class Antione Robinson was only 20 years of age when the vehicle he was repairing collapsed upon him. He died March 19, 2008 in Nawa, Afghanistan from his injuries.
Robinson was a wheeled-vehicle mechanic assigned to the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division from Ft. Bragg, N.C. He had joined the Army in Sept. 2005 and completed Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 2005. He then went on to complete the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia in 2006.
The incident that killed the young man is under investigation by division safety officers, says a story from WRAL news. The story also quotes Capt. Victor Diaz, the company commander, who is speaking of Robinson:
"(He was) a class act and a full source of energy for us. We celebrate Robinson’s life and know that he is with us the rest of the way," Capt. Victor Diaz, company commander, said in a statement.
Captain Diaz is also quoted in an article on MSNBC, but the article seems to have some problems with the coding of special characters. Below are two quotes which have been paraphrased from that article:
"Pfc. Antione Robinson, an outstanding Paratrooper, mechanic, son, and brother to us all; we truly are going to miss his love for life and service to his country."
"May God watch over Robinson's family as they continue to heal from this tragic event."
The Detroit Free Press was able to get a short quote from Robinson's mother:
Family members were gathered Monday at the home of Robinson's mother, Ginger Jhons.
"He was a beautiful person," Jhons said.
During his two and a half years of service to our country, Robinson received numerous medals and awards, including the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist's Badge.
Private 1st Class Robinson is survived by his mother, Ginger L. Jhons; his father, Emror Robinson; and his grandmother, Mary L. Stevenson, all of Detroit.
Taps will probably be played at the funerals of these two fallen heroes. Tears will surely to come to the eyes of the friends and family of Private 1st Class Antione V. Robinson and Staff Sergeant William R. Neil Jr. when the bugle call is heard.
The Army Study Guide gives a summary of the truth about this beautiful musical experience:
History of Taps:
The 24-note bugle call known as "taps" is thought to be a revision of a French bugle signal, called "tattoo," that notified soldiers to cease an evening’s drinking and return to their barracks or garrisons. It was sounded one hour before the bugle call that brought the military day to an end by ordering the extinguishing of fires and lights. The last five measures of the tattoo resemble the modern day "Taps."
The word "taps" is an alteration of the obsolete word "taptoo," derived from the Dutch "taptoe." Taptoe was the command -- "Tap toe!" -- to shut ("toe to") the "tap" of a keg.
The revision that gave us present-day taps was made during America ’s Civil War by Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield, heading a brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Va., near Richmond. Up to that time, the U.S. Army’s infantry call to end the day was the French final call, "L’Extinction des feux." Gen. Butterfield decided the "lights out" music was too formal to signal the day’s end. One day in July 1862, he recalled the tattoo music and hummed a version of it to an aide, who wrote it down in music. Butterfield then asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes and, after listening, lengthened and shortened them while keeping his original melody.
The link above also has a MP3 file which plays Taps. It is hard to listen to it even once without feeling sad. Think of what it must be like for our wonderful Patriot Guard Riders who go to many funerals and hear Taps frequently. They will be attending the funerals of both Private 1st Class Antione Robinson and Staff Sergeant William R. Neil Jr. in the next few days. Those people are heroes too.
Helping our troops:
If you wish to assist our military and their families, consider Operation Helmet, or Fisher House. If you have frequent flyer miles, they can be donated to hospitalized veterans or their families. See Fisher House’s Hero Miles program for details. Consider sponsoring a deployed service member at TroopCarePackage.com. Letters or care packages can make a real difference in a military person's life. To assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here. Also, you could visit:
About the IGTNT series:
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members mentioned here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.