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As Long as We Remember...

May 31, 2010

Noting Memorial Day

Norman M. Covert

Historically the only credit many fighting men received in the early chronicles of America’s military defense of liberty was being “noted in dispatches from the front.” With that in mind, I was reminded last week that the cast of characters changes ever so slightly from one ceremonial rite to the next in Frederick.


Let me “note” here the names of Millard Haines and C. William Krantz for service above and beyond. We brass players stick together and sometimes even rub a little shine on our old horns.


The VIP audience gathered at Resthaven Memorial Gardens May 22nd could see Millard’s name near the bottom of the program. They wouldn’t have been cognizant that Millard and his trumpet often come with an echo at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Memorial Grounds Park and other venues, where we honor fallen active duty and military veterans.


At the appointed time, we stood at attention and saluted while the Thurmont American Legion Post 168 Firing Squad touched off their M1 Garand tribute of three volleys – that’s seven riflemen firing three rounds in unison. We anticipated Millard’s plaintive “Taps.” It arrived from off in the distance and then sounded again in response, but with a little different tone.


Bill Krantz was the alter ego, as it were, of Millard, standing some distance away in the field of honored graves. He returned each phrase of the plaintive bugle call on his trumpet. Bill’s horn, like Millard’s, has performed yeoman service in local bands, including his own, as well as the final tribute for ceremonies and funerals for many years.


Organizers at Francis Scott Key American Legion Post 11 are usually wont to ask, “Who can we get to play taps?” Eventually Millard’s name is brought up. It only takes a phone call to nail down his commitment to play.


But Millard is a veteran, too, of quality musical ensembles, including the incomparable Spires Brass Band and ubiquitous Santa Band. He knows what an impact Echo Taps has on the audience.


Millard invariably calls Bill, who might be found in the middle of a feed lot with his yearling cattle near Keymar. He and his devoted wife Gerry replaced the milk cows with heifers when they relocated their rubber boots from Shookstown Road some years ago, his pastures replaced by Fort Detrick’s ill-starred Area B environmental dig.


Bill and I often shared a smoke on our corn cob pipes, when I still could indulge in the noxious weed. He still enjoys lighting up. I gave him the moniker, “Liver Lips” for his propensity to play without practicing the long hours so many musicians devote to keeping their “lips” in shape for brass mouthpieces.


The name came from an old Boy Scout adventure novel I read as a kid in Virginia. I think he knows it’s coming when I greet him.


While at Fort Detrick, it wasn’t unusual that my office receive calls from funeral directors and family members seeking an honor guard and bugler to honor their deceased relative. More than once we pressed into service Boy Scouts, including my son, Peter.


Local funeral homes found Millard and Bill’s names and began to call them, but neither could always be available for the myriad requests. The Department of Defense solved part of the problem by accepting a bugle manufactured with an embedded audio player that gave an acceptable rendition of taps and could be wielded by any soldier. It isn’t the same.


I was recently impressed by the professionalism of the Maryland Army National Guard Honor Guard, which supported the funeral of several comrades who have died since last fall. The team brought along a bugler, whose flawless performance of Taps honored my friends’ service and memory.


If you want to hear Echo Taps, really echoing, be downtown on Veterans Day when Col. Fred Schumaker brings together some 15-plus brass players and positions them on opposite street corners from Mount Olivet, down Market, left on W. Second, and ending at Memorial Grounds Park. It is spectacular – Millard is always among the faithful.


Last Man’s Club. The foregoing encourages me to report that William A. (Bill) Kennedy, Sr., has been faithful keeper of the keys of the World War II Last Man’s Club of FSK Post 11. A bottle of champagne remains corked in a locked cabinet beside stacks of long-stem glasses. Mr. Kennedy cannot predict what will be final dispensation of the bubbly.


“I may not have to worry,” the veteran of North Africa, and China-Burma, India quipped.


Not all local World War II Legionnaires chose to be part of this informal association. Head count at the group’s May 15 get together, revealed three members remain, Mr. Kennedy, George B. Delaplaine, Jr., and E. Van Fossen. James Reid, who was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism in the Pacific, is the most recent loss to the group. He died Jan. 6, 2010.


This Memorial Day I salute my comrades who have “gone before,” honor those who keep alive the memory of those who joined us in service to the nation; and welcome home Marines of Company B, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from Afghanistan. They’re at 29 Palms, CA, last week, but it appears they will be back at Flair Army Reserve Center this week.


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