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"Just a Common Soldier" - A Memorial Day Tribute

"Just a Common Soldier"
(A Soldier Died Today)
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

© 1987 A. Lawrence Vaincourt


Our thanks to R.C. Vaincourt for permitting Glendale's use of this poem in its entirety.

For more information ...

"Taps" - Redux

After the March 29th Bugler about military myths - which included a section on "Taps" -Glendale heard from Jari Villanueva, who in 2007 was inducted into the Buglers Hall of Fame, the first active duty military bugler to be so honored. Villanueva is passionate about the 24 notes of this well-known, emotional and symbolic tune, which is sounded at military funerals. There was an exchange of emails in which he made this writer aware of two websites not previously known. One is his own site: The Library of Congress now uses Tapsbugler as a reference site for "Taps." You will understand why when you click on that link. The site is filled with information on the history of the music, articles to read, links to finding a bugler for a military funeral, performance guidelines, and discussion forums.

Also on the site is his bio, which details why he is such an authority on the subject. Retired from the USAF, where he spent 23 years with The United States Air Force Band in Washington, DC, he is considered the country's foremost expert on military bugle calls, particularly the call of "Taps." While in the Air Force, he was the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of The USAF Band's State Funeral Plans and was the NCOIC of the command post at Andrews AFB which oversaw the arrival and departure ceremonies for the late Presidents Reagan and Ford. As a ceremonial trumpeter, Villanueva participated in well over 5,000 ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. He was responsible for all the music performed by the USAF Bands for state funerals, as well as for moving the bugle used at President John F. Kennedy's funeral from the Smithsonian to Arlington where it is currently on display. He is a Civil War historian and re-enactor and music director for the National Civil War Field Music School where students learn to play fife, drum and bugle.

The other website worth noting is Jari Villanueva is president of TAPS 150, an organization incorporated to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the origin of our national bugle call "Taps." Special events and concerts are planned that will culminate with ceremonies at national cemeteries in May 2012 and a re-enactment event in July 2012 at Berkeley Plantation where "Taps" was born. In fact, one event planned for this year - and in just a few days - will be on May 30th at 11 AM at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. A mass band of buglers is scheduled to sound "Taps" in a project called the Spirit of '45 to preserve the legacy of the men and women of the Greatest Generation so that their example of courage, self-sacrifice, "can-do" attitude and commitment to community can help inspire a renewal of national unity in America at a time when our country once again must come together to meet historic challenges.

How to fly the U.S. flag on Memorial Day

The flag is flown at half-staff until noon then raised to full staff until sundown. For flags that cannot be lowered to half staff, proper protocol to indicate mourning is to tie a black bow above a full-staffed U.S. flag.

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