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The nation pauses to honor those who served

While the nation sets aside time today -- Veterans Day -- to recognize the work of the men and women who have served in the armed forces, veterans and other patriots have found a means to honor them in cemetery ceremonies throughout the year.

Clark Richardson, a former band director and now science teacher at South Plains Academy, with Bob Bland, a Marine Corps sergeant from the Korean War, are among those who give comfort to families in times of sorrow.

They provide the military ritual that adds a lasting memory to a graveside service.

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Richardson, who is a trumpet player, was a band director first at Haskell, then Crosbyton and lastly at Ralls, before he saw a way to play taps that exceeded the recorded version that is used at many veterans' funerals.

"The very first veterans' funerals that I went to, I went just to pay my respects to the family," he said. "They had a bugle player out there with basically a little CD inside a bugle -- it's made that way, and looks like you're getting it live, but it's definitely a recording, you can tell."

Now he travels across Texas as a volunteer to play taps as part of Bugles Across America.

"What got me, was that it just wasn't the same having a recording, versus having an actual trumpet-player bugler. There's not any way for that to project off of surrounding objects to get the different echoes, and it's just different effects that strike people's heartstrings."

Bland said the military ceremonies at veterans' funerals are not only to honor the fallen veteran. "It's to give a little peace and feeling of honor on the part of the family when we do this type of thing -- the 21-gun salute, and often we fold the colors as well because sometimes the military can't get there."

He thinks the lack of active military personnel may become more common with expected cutbacks in the services.

"The services have a limited number of personnel available for this, and it has necessitated cutting back to two on several of the services. That doesn't happen all the time, but it can happen because of the reduction in troops."

Richardson said the families of veterans invariably have appreciated the playing of taps at the cemeteries. "I don't think there has ever been a time when I have not had either the widow or widower still surviving, or a son or daughter, that hasn't sought me out immediately just to say thanks.

"Everything we do we do for free, but it means so much to them, and in nearly every instance they have given some kind of honorarium -- just because it means so much to them."

He said a bugler can be found on the organization's website, buglesacrossamerica.org.

"I've been playing trumpet for 40 years. So, I just said, I'm going to dust mine off. If you have a veteran, if you give me a day or two heads-up time to get work covered, I will come out and play taps at the gravesite."

Bland, a veteran himself, appreciates the annual Veterans Day recognition. "I think it makes soldiers feel good inside, kind of warms their hearts a bit just to know that people in our nation think well and respect the service they have given to this nation.

"And frequently, we will have people who have never been in the service who have come up to us and said thank you, thank you for your service.

Honoring our veterans on Veterans Day -- that's very important to a lot of people."

And as long as Richardson has his trumpet, he plans to continue playing taps live to leave an indelible memory for the families of a veteran.

Even though the words are unofficial and always unspoken, the trumpet notes of taps convey the poignancy of the moment:

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hill,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

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