Dismayed by recorded tributes, retiree taught himself taps to honor veterans
By JOEL RIPPEL | Star Tribune (Minneapolis) | Published: February 1, 2019
MINNEAPOLIS (Tribune News Service) — In March of 2014, Gary Marquardt of Mound attended a military funeral in Sioux Falls for Delwin "Bud" Shanks, a family acquaintance. The solemn gathering included a military rifle squad for Shanks, who served in the Army Air Force in the Pacific during World War II. The family was presented with a folded American flag and a recorded version of taps.
That last detail would shift the trajectory of Marquardt's retirement.
That's because Marquardt thought it wasn't respectful enough — a live version of taps should have been played. Soon after, Marquardt caught a television interview with Tom Day, founder of Bugles Across America.
Bugles Across America was founded in 2000 after Congress passed legislation guaranteeing deceased veterans the right to at least two uniformed military personnel to fold the flag, as well as taps performed on a CD player. Like Marquardt, Day believed that those who served their country deserved a live rendition.
Day's organization now has more than 4,000 volunteer buglers across the United States.
After watching Day's interview, Marquardt headed over to his neighbor, Bruce Hedblom. Hedblom conducted the 451st Army Band at Fort Snelling from 1984 until his retirement in 1996. Hedblom also served as conductor of the 47th Infantry Division Band from 1960 to 1969.
"Can a guy my age, who's never played [taps], learn how to play?" he asked Hedblom.
"He said, 'Sure. But it might take a while.'"
So at age 66, after a long and successful career as a business owner, Marquardt began to teach himself to play the bugle. He bought the brass instrument and started taking lessons from Bob Bushnell, who was then director of music education at Minnetonka Music. Bushnell played for Hedblom while in the military.
Marquardt said his wife, Joan, was "pretty supportive — until I started practicing. I wasn't very good."
Yet, within just months, Joan walked into the studio when her husband was practicing and said, "'You're going to make them cry.'"
In August of 2015, Marquardt felt ready to become a member of Bugles Across America. "You audition before the director in each state," he said. "When they think you're ready to play, you can volunteer for assignments. It's an honor."
He understands that families often are "devastated and not thinking or asking for a live bugler." Still, he said, "we always stand ready to fulfill that mission. As Tom Day often says, 'It's an honor every veteran has earned and deserved.'"
Marquardt grew up in Sioux Falls and graduated from North Dakota State College of Science in 1969. "Several kids I knew in high school died in Vietnam," he said. "Their names are on the wall in Washington, D.C."
He was originally classified 1-A, which made him eligible for military service. But while waiting for the draft, he collapsed at work and was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. He was reclassified as unfit to serve.
"This," he said, "is just a way to contribute."
Day is happy to have Marquardt join his ranks. "Bugles Across America is very proud to have a man like this, who got a bugle and learned how to do taps and is now one of [our] finest volunteers," Day wrote in an e-mail.
Marquardt, who turns 70 in April, said he will continue playing.
"This is the blood that keeps me going," he said. "The payback is tremendous. If a week goes by without doing a funeral, I feel like I've shirked my duty."
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