Sitting on my porch on a recent evening, enjoying a cup of coffee after supper, I could hear the strains of Taps being practiced from the open window of a house across the street. As I sipped my coffee and listened to the music filling the evening air, I was taken back in time by the melancholy tones and wondered what it must have been like to hear that sad refrain on battle fields in our past.
My thoughts took me to July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg. The first day of the battle was over. Weary soldiers were trying to rest, putting the horrors of the day's events behind them. The moans of the dying wounded, still strewn on the field, haunting them as they tried to sleep. They had survived the day, but what would the next day bring? Would they ever return to their homes and loved ones?
I held my cup as my thoughts took me to another place and time. The evening of Dec. 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that had witnessed the attack that morning must have also found it very hard to rest that evening. What thoughts were going through their minds? They had seen the destruction of our mighty Pacific Fleet. The fires from the attack were still burning, filling the air with rancid smoke and fumes. Would the morning bring an invasion of Japanese troops? Would they ever see their families and homes again?
As dusk closed in and the music from across the street ended, one last time I was taken to another evening, June 6, 1944: the shores of Normandy, France; Omaha and Utah Beaches; the young men who had stormed those beaches that morning under the withering fire of German machine guns and artillery. The sounds of distant firing could be heard as they tried to put that out of their minds and rest their weary bodies. What would the morning bring? Would the Germans push them back into the sea? Would they ever return home again?
I finished my coffee as a light rain began to fall. The young musician across the street had finished his practice, and to my ear had done an excellent job. As I got up from my chair and went inside, I hoped that whoever hears him play this Memorial Day will think of all the sacrifices made on their behalf by all of our Armed Forces. Perhaps, they too will be transported back in time and let the sweet murmuring of Taps bring a little peace and comfort into their lives and those who have given so much for our liberty.
Joseph R. Rother
Son of WW II vet Cpl. Rudolph R. Rother
402nd FTR. SQ., 370th FTR. Grp., 9th Air Force (1943-1945)