"TAPS" ...The Sound of Sacrifice

There are few moments in death…and life…more poignant than the playing of “Taps”. When I stand at a graveside, a funeral director positioned midway between a grieving family and the uniformed men and women who have traveled to pay homage, it is a moment where I’m forced to pause. It is a surreal experience; as if the world is still and only those moving are the ones gathered around a grave. The playing of “Taps” invokes tears and emotions as if on cue. But what is it about this ritual that moves us so instantly? What is it about military honors that can force a tear from almost any eye? I ask myself often. In my humble opinion, the moment the bugle is sounded is a validation that the person we lost is being laid to rest. This marks the end. But not the end of just any life, the life of a person who intimately knew the definition of ‘sacrifice”. What that sacrifice meant to a country is immeasurable, but what it meant to his family is far greater. The ability to put one’s country before themselves requires a selflessness that we don’t often see in modern times. Those who answered calls of duty did not just sacrifice for the years of enlistment, rather, it was an ongoing commitment to family, friends and community. The soldiers we say good bye to today, represent a generation of men, women too, that lived their life by putting others ahead of themselves. They didn’t return from battlefields and bunkers to self-indulge or recapture lost years. Instead, they married the women who long awaited their return, created families, went to work each day in their respective fields, provided food and shelter, and did so proudly and willingly. Serving country was an honor, as was serving their family. Standing around the graves of these soldiers, as the sound of “Taps” echo, are the fruits of their labor. Often, a widow, children and grandchildren with tearful eyes and heavy hearts. They hear the sound of “Taps” and are immediately reminded of their patriarch and his sacrifices, not just through the war but throughout his life. And what is the defining mark of these great men? They did it all without complaint. The eulogies I hear often echo similar sentiments. “He gave to his family” “He was a provider” “In later years, he lived for his grandchildren” “He always made sure we had enough”. We live in a world today where highly if not overpaid athletes can bend their knee rather than stand for a flag. We live in a society where baseless and unfounded gripes turn into protests. Everyone seems to be a rebel of some sort, yet have no clue of what they are fighting for. Everyone seems out for themselves, "quick fixes" and instant gratification.  As far as we have progressed as a society, there is a sadness in the values we left behind.  So, for the moment when “Taps” is being played, I and many others take comfort in honoring a life of sacrifice, a life rooted in principle and a commitment to do the right thing. As I sat and listened to the priest’s Homily yesterday (thank you Msgr. Petrillo) everyone’s life comes with hardship(s) and everyone’s life requires a degree of sacrifice. That message seemed to have resonated more clearly with earlier generations. To the men & women who have served our country…thank you. To the men & women who sacrifice for their families and make sure each generation does better…thank you. The sound of that bugle will continue to move me every time as it never becomes routine. But it is yet another moment where I’m grateful for my profession, the ability to stand on the line separating life and death, and the lessons that are found there.

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