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Letter: There's a story behind devotion to 'Taps'

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Kudos and bravo to Beth Rickers. "People" is an outstanding column, and the Vet's Day article was no exception. Being part of it is just enough motivation to write a brief response.

You know how you walk away from a discussion and then think of more things you should have said. Reading this morning I was struck by three words, "duty," "honor' and "country." I truly believe if you asked any veteran, more than 90 percent would use them to describe the meaning of their service.

One thing I neglected to tell Beth during the interview was a deeper reason I continued to play "Taps" for what is now decades. I got to Clark Field in the Philippine Islands during the late summer of 1966. By then, the Vietnam War was ramping up and up. Clark had a superb base hospital. Day after day combat soldiers who were wounded were stabilized in M.A.S.H units, flown to Japan for more stability, then to Clark and finally that 23-hour flight to San Francisco.

The planes carrying them were brand-new converted C141 Starlifters. I thought they were magnificent, and the Air Force saw to it that the men were honored for their wounds by patriotic music when they were transferred from the plane to ambulances taking them to the base hospital.

The 600th Band at Clark was about 50 guys, and we split into two air evacuation bands. So, we switched back and forth to play marches mostly while they limped or were carried off those Starlifters. It was sad seeing the bandages covering stumps, the long faces, and now and then a little red coming through the white. This image became Vietnam to me in 1966 and 1967.

Day after day of air evacuation duty, when we were on Clark, cemented the meaning of service in my mind. These were the faces of young, brave warriors who gave much to that war (hate the war, love the warrior). Anyway, it steeled a resolve inside of me to honor that service, and now it's 46 years later.

Thanks again, Beth, for a very important, timely article.

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