EXETERâ€“Last Saturday under sunny blue skies over 40 volunteer brass instrument players from RI and surrounding areas, ranging in age from early teens to late 70s gathered in celebration of Armed Forces Day at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery WWII Memorial in Exeter. They were there to perform a unique version of â€śTapsâ€ť known as â€śEcho Taps.â€ť The performance works as one musician begins the 24 notes of â€śTapsâ€ť on their own. Three notes in, the person to the right begins playing and so forth until everyone has completed the song.
Members from the Canton American Legion in Massachusetts were honored to travel down for the event. â€śItâ€™s something that should be rememberedâ€¦rather than hot dogs and parades with antique cars,â€ť said legion member Bob Brown, â€śyouâ€™re better off remembering the veterans.â€ť
This is now the seventh year that â€śEcho Tapsâ€ť has been held at the monument and each year the numbers continue to grow. Paul Yanuskiewicz of the Canton American legion said, â€śI did it last year for the first time, and Iâ€™ll continue to do it as long as I can stand up.â€ť With testament like that itâ€™s easy to see why the event has become so popular.
â€śItâ€™s a huge honor just being in uniform and being able to participate in such a significant moment,â€ť said Sea Cadet Petty Officer 1st Class Andrea Coutoulakis. She will spend her next year in Newport, RI at the Naval Academy Prep School before entering The Naval Academy in Annapolis the following year.
At exactly 12 noon the first player began. The solemn, moving sounds grew louder as each performer joined and soon the echo was in the air. Some who came to witness the event saluted the flag; others bowed their heads in a moment of reflection to the good men and women who served and those who continue to serve our great Nation.
The final player, event organizer and RI state director of Buglers Across America Michael Jackson, finished the piece from the hill behind the memorial. After the echo, Jackson made his way down the hill as others filled in through the flag holders en route to the center of the memorial. he players lined the two side stonewalls containing the names of those fallen in WWII. Jackson stood upon the grassy top of the monument and led the group in unison through the song again.
After the second round was played, Jackson addressed the crowd: â€śAs you know Iâ€™m the resident bugler here,â€ť he said. â€śI did 22 funerals this week, and Iâ€™m very proud of that, but it almost pales to what I just witnessed. Itâ€™s so moving.â€ť
Congressman Jim Langevin was on hand for the ceremony. â€śWe are so blessed to be able to live in an amazing country such as the United States,â€ť he said. â€śI am privileged to be here with all of you today as we solute our nation, the men and women in uniform, our veterans.â€ť
Just before leaving the event Congressman Langevin was candid about the importance of honoring our military.
â€śI think itâ€™s important always to remember those who serve our nation, wearing our Nationâ€™s uniform and this is an important day on Armed Forced Day to reflect on that service and certainly remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect us here at home,â€ť he said.
People gathered after the performance to enjoy some provided refreshments, swap stories and catch up on old times. There are many groups dedicated to serving our country in various ways, veterans, current service members, legions, youth groups, and more. Events such as this help unite these groups, spread their messages, and accomplish their goals.
â€śThis is outstanding, itâ€™s very touching to me, and itâ€™s something close to my heart,â€ť said Veteran Ron Hawkins, Vice President of the RI chapter of Rolling Thunder whose mission is primarily POW MIA. This was Rolling Thunderâ€™s first year at the performance and they are sure to be back again to fly the POW MIA flag.