Drum Corps International
Taps Across Arkansas

Taps Across Arkansas

by Drum Corps International

We last read about Bugles Across America in the November 18, 2005 installment of Fanfare. Dennis Lockwood is the Arkansas state director of the organization. The following is a chronicle of a journey he took this past October and November to get out the word of Bugles Across America. (www.buglesacrossamerica.org) Background Bugles Across America was founded in 2000 by Tom Day when it became apparent that there were an insufficient number of military buglers to respond to the need for live "Taps" buglers at the funerals of America's veterans. I had met Tom through a drum corps chat board and joined the organization in 2001, becoming Arkansas state director in 2003. On Memorial Day weekend 2004, many Bugles Across America members journeyed to Washington, DC for the dedication of the World War II Veterans Monument. At that gathering, members from New York state announced their plan for an echo "Taps" project for Memorial Day 2005. This event was a huge success with buglers echoing each other over a distance of more than 40 miles between two national cemeteries in New York state. On my way home from the DC trip, I began thinking of ways to help promote our organization in my home state. I decided upon a march across the state. Logistically, it was feasible, as our family had just purchased an RV and I had marched seven miles in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2004, with the Santa Clara Vanguard combined corps -- so I believed my legs could take it. I began formal planning for the trip in the fall of 2004, after marching a season with the Kilties all-age corps. Two main goals for the march were identified: First, to improve our visibility in the communities that we serve (i.e.: veterans and their families) and second, to increase our membership. I notified other members, veterans organizations and sent press releases to broadcast and print media along the route. During the march, "Taps" would be sounded at the top of each hour, at monuments and memorials and at cemeteries along the route. The March -- part one: West Memphis to Little Rock (Oct. 17 to 25) For people unfamiliar with the geography of Arkansas, the eastern half of the state is primarily flat and includes farmland and swamps with a few small towns scattered along the way. This portion would be the easiest to work on conditioning for the anticipated average of 15 miles per day. The "Taps" Across Arkansas march officially kicked off on the morning of Oct. 17, 2005, in west Memphis. Following a short interview with a news crew, I sounded "Taps" and began marching westward on U.S. Highway 70 as my wife drove along in the RV. The news crew followed along for a few miles and included some footage in their story, resulting in us picking up a new member the first day. A few drivers stopped to ask if we needed help. I gave them a handout explaining what we do and thanked them for stopping. I later mused that perhaps professional mental assistance was in order. The next couple of days were uneventful except for the small towns and peoples' curiosities. I discovered that my preparation in footwear might have been a little lax, as I already had blisters that required gel inserts and bandaging. My muscles would tighten up at each break, making me appreciate what the drum corps kids go through every day during the season. The fifth day of the march was more difficult due to a stretch of swamp over six miles long with no shoulders or pullouts for the RV (and no breaks for me). During this stretch at least a dozen drivers stopped to offer assistance, assuming I was a stranded motorist. How many people walking for help carry a horn and wear white gloves? The swamp section concluded with a crossing of the White River into the town of DeValls Bluff and my hourly "Taps" in the town square. A veteran on the town council arranged for the next morning's first "Taps" to be at the American Legion hall. The next day I sounded "Taps" and "To The Color" at the veterans' monument in the town square of Hazen. As I was playing, I noticed a man come out from the local establishment and shout "hoo-rah." I walked over and explained what I was doing. He must have been moved to interrupt watching the Razorbacks' football game on TV! Sunday would be a short march so that I would reach Little Rock on schedule (I originally had planned to take Sundays off). I warmed up my two-valve Olds Ultratone in a town park while waiting for church services to conclude across the street from the veterans' monument. A news crew used part of the warm-up in their story. After I sounded "Taps" at the monument, the march continued onward toward Little Rock. There is one thing about walking for several hours a day. The mind has plenty of time to think of things. I have counted the number of days that will be spent walking at 24 and there are 24 notes to "Taps." Arriving in the Little Rock area a couple days later concluded the first half of the march. Following the Little Rock television news story on Sunday, I received many auto horn honks, waves and thumbs up! Along the way, I came upon a funeral home and went in to introduce myself. The funeral director greeted me and told me that he plays "Taps" for their services. He then joined the organization. The March -- part two: Tour of Little Rock (Wednesday, Oct. 26) The city of Little Rock sits across the Arkansas River from where the main march route had taken me. As I had several events planned for Wednesday, it would be necessary to do a combined drive and walk day, beginning with an appearance on a local radio talk show. The show segment concluded with a live performance of "Taps." After the radio show, we drove across town to the Little Rock National Cemetery where I was to be met by a reporter and photographer from the major statewide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. After I sounded "Taps" and marched off, I reached the governor's mansion and was met at the gate by a news crew. I continued walking toward the Capitol with the cameraman following. A short time later I came upon a cemetery. As has been my practice, I entered the cemetery to sound "Taps" at a veteran's gravesite. The cemetery is quite old and I learned that few burials were done there anymore. After a few minutes I located a veteran's marker, raised my horn and sounded "Taps." Before I reached the gate to leave, I was met by a funeral procession. I stopped and came to attention out of respect to the deceased and their family and noticed that there was a flag-draped casket, indicating this person was a veteran. As soon as the entire procession had passed I followed them to the other side of the cemetery where they were gathering. I saw an Army honor guard preparing to perform full military honors; including rifle volleys. The service had not yet begun so I walked up to the funeral director and sergeant in charge of the honor guard to offer my services if needed. I was informed that they had a bugler. Normally, one might accept this answer without question and continue on. But the military and veterans' groups have increasingly been utilizing a digital bugle. This horn looks like an oversized trumpet with a cone inserted in the bell and plays "Taps" at the push of a button. The quality is decent but it does not have the same feeling as live "Taps" and is prone to battery failure. I stepped over to meet the bugler and noticed that he had a real trumpet. I told him why I had stopped, wished him well, and continued out of the cemetery. A cameraman caught up and took some footage of me walking up to the state capitol, where I sounded "To The Color." I then sounded "Taps" at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. When I was finished, I noticed a lone observer, who introduced himself as a member of Bugles Across America. I rode back to the National Cemetery and after a little rest, began the march to the Veteran's Cemetery in North Little Rock. Along the way, I met another member of Bugles Across America and at the cemetery; we met a World War II veteran being driven to the cemetery by his hospice for his weekly visit to his wife's grave. They had seen the news about my march, so they stayed to hear me play "Taps." At the cemetery, I also met Maj. Clement Papineau, who had marched several Midwest corps in the 1970s and founded the former Division III Delta Brigade from Little Rock. I finished the day in the parking lot with the closing strains from "Send in the Clowns" and told Clem that I hoped Gail Royer heard it. The March -- part three: North Little Rock to Fort Smith (Oct. 27 to Nov. 11) The next two days were more mountainous. More and more people were honking or waving in recognition and support. After the march over the mountains, I headed towards Conway, home of our largest contingent of BAA members (four) in the state. In Vilonia the next day, I and another member of BAA sounded "Taps" at Vilonia's war memorial. A couple hours later, a car stopped and a girl got out wearing her Vilonia band jacket. She asked me if we play at funerals and I told her that is what we do. As she started to leave I suggested that she wait for a couple of minutes since I was about to sound "Taps" at the top of the hour. When I finish playing she came back over and was holding back tears. When I asked her if there are veterans in her family she told me that her brother is currently serving in Iraq. I patted her on the shoulder and wished him a safe return. Her mother also exited the car to give thanks. Sunday afternoon and night were spent camping at Toad Suck State Park. I can't remember the story about how the park got its name -- only that it is not as bad as one might conjure up. The blisters on my feet no longer bothered me and were beginning to heal. Monday, Oct. 31 (Halloween) would be a march to Plumerville. Down the road the skies opened up and the rain poured down. Now drenched, I marched into town. When I reached city hall, I went inside, where the town clerk looked at me through her window as though I was some over-aged trick-or-treater. The next morning we drove back to city hall, where I was offered leftover Halloween candy and the mayor let me use his computer to check my e-mail. We now had five new members since the start of the march. There was also a bugler request posted for the Van Buren Veteran's Day parade the evening of Thursday, Nov. 10. I contacted the requesting party and agreed to do the honors, as I would be in town that evening. As I prepared to leave city hall, the mayor and his clerk joined me outside for the first "Taps" of the day. The next two days I walked past many farms. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, bugler Mike Nuckolls of Heber Springs met me. Mike had driven over an hour out of his way after doing a service and was dressed in his honor guard uniform complete with black patent leather shoes. He walked an hour with me to the end of the day at Pottsville. In addition to handling "Taps" requests from all over the state, Mike is also Junior State Commander of the Arkansas VFW. The next day would be a walk through Russellville. This is the largest city between Conway and Fort Smith and is the easternmost point where I routinely accept bugler requests. I work closely with the Rogers-Rye VFW Honor Guard and the two funeral homes in town. Friday, November 4 started out with a construction zone ahead. The flaggers controlling one-lane traffic had seen me previously along the highway. In Knoxville, dinner was concluded with "Taps" in the parking lot of a 1950s -style diner, followed by the last two miles of the day into Lamar. Saturday's march would be through Clarksville. I have done "Taps" there with one of the funeral homes in town. I saw two truckloads of National Guard troops turn onto the highway ahead of me. As I reached town I saw flags flying along the sidewalks and traffic being diverted. Then there was a fly over by two jet fighters. The Veterans' Day parade was coming straight towards me. I stopped where traffic was being diverted and sounded "To The Color" as the National Guard passed carrying the flag. To my relief, we were close to Ozark and would be driving home to spend Saturday and Sunday nights in our own bed. Monday began the last week of the trip. As I reached the city limits of Altus, the mayor met me to carry the flag through town during my march. If Altus sounds familiar, it is where the Fox TV show "The Simple Life" got its start a few years back. After lunch I continued marching towards Ozark. As I got into town and reached the county courthouse, members of the VFW post and several ladies from the Red Hat Society greeted me. There was a sounding of "Taps" at the veterans' memorial and photos taken for the town's newspaper. I continued through town and stopped at the store where I work. I then went on to the town cemetery where I sounded "Taps" at a veteran's gravesite. Tuesday would take us to the town of Mulberry. The steepest grade of the entire trip would be this day and there were not very many pullouts for the RV. The problems with my feet have been replaced by a muscle or tendon problem in my upper right leg. There was pain when I started a segment but I was able to loosen up and work my way through it. I walked past the house and property where I first lived after relocating to Arkansas. My elderly father had moved there with me and passed away a little over a year later. We had planted a tree there as a living memorial. As he was not a veteran, I played "Amazing Grace" in his memory. The last three days of the march were shorter by design to allow time to catch up if necessary. Wednesday would be to Alma and would be passing more level farm and ranch land. Thursday's march would take me into the northern part of Fort Smith to set up a short march on Friday morning to the National Cemetery. Prior to starting across the Midland Bridge across the Arkansas River, I was met by a reporter and photographer from the Southwest Times-Record and a television photographer from Ft. Smith, both who followed me across the bridge. The police had closed one lane so I could safely march. The Fort Smith PD had sent a car and four uniformed bicycle officers. They all followed me and waited at the Forest Park Cemetery while I sounded "Taps" at a veteran's gravesite. There was only a short walk left to end of the day at the American Legion hall. I spoke about Bugles Across America with the band director and trumpet section of the Van Buren High School band. A Veterans' Day parade started off with my sounding of "Taps." On Friday, Nov. 11, I marched through Ft. Smith and sounded the 10 a.m. "Taps" just before reaching downtown. I marched the last several blocks to the National Cemetery and arrived there about 30 minutes before the program was to begin. As I was waiting, a news crew from Fort Smith showed up and taped the first part of a news story to air that evening. As the clock hit 11 a.m. the band stopped playing and I sounded "To The Color" to officially open the program. The program closed with the echo "Taps" with another bugler echoing my "Taps" from across the cemetery. It was the end of the "Taps" Across Arkansas march, but I still had one more engagement. We drove 50 miles back to Ozark and arrived at the Franklin County courthouse just in time to sound "Taps" to close out the Veterans' Day program there. Epilogue Recalling that one of the goals of the march was to increase membership in Bugles Across America, as the march began, we had 31 playing members in the state of Arkansas. As I write this story two weeks after the march ended, membership has grown to 42. The other goal was to improve our organization's visibility among veterans. Only time will tell in measuring the success or failure in this area. To everyone involved in Bugles Across America and others reading this story, please pass our message along to veterans in your family and other veterans that you know. We are here to honor and serve those who have done the same for their country. Finally, I have calculated the number of steps taken as follows: 120 steps-per-minute times 60 minutes equals 7,200 steps-per-hour. Divide 7,200 by 3 mph to get 2,400 steps-per-mile. Multiply 2,400 times 305 miles to get an approximate total of 732,000 steps taken on the march route, not counting switch backs to the RV and the Veteran's Day parade in Van Buren. Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.

Related News

View all news

by Drum Corps International

Corps news and announcements
Read more

by Drum Corps International

Madison Scouts do Mardi Gras
Read more