When he found out The Wall That Heals was going to be on display on Marco Island, bugler Bill Jones knew he had a mission.
“I actually went over when they were preparing,” stated Jones. The Wall hadn’t even been set up yet.
“My dad was a career Army soldier, a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I like to honor my dad, who passed away in 2013, as often as I can. I thought, ‘Maybe I can honor him by sounding Taps by the wall. ‘ And I wanted to get permission to do that.”
Tim Tetz, the director of outreach for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, is in charge of The Wall That Heals. When he was told about Jones, he was excited to meet him.
“Tim asked me, ‘What are you doing in the evening?’ That’s how it got started. Originally it was going to be 10 PM, but they thought that may be a little late. So, we made it 8 PM. So I’ve been sounding Taps at 8 o’clock. One night I was out there with my long johns on.
“There have been upwards of 100 to 200 people who happen to be there visiting the Wall when I’m sounding Taps. I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments from people thanking me. For several, it actually brought tears to their eyes because it reminded them of a loved one who is on the wall.”
The Coastal Breeze posted a video on their Facebook page of Jones sounding Taps Thursday evening at The Wall That Heals. The video quickly eclipsed 3,400 views. Word of the video got to Jones from a neighbor.
“My neighbor showed me the video,” Jones laughed, recalling how he found out about the video. But he was dead serious about what sounding Taps at The Wall That Heals means to him.
“I sound Taps a lot, and I play trumpet a lot. It’s a little nerve-wracking standing in front of the souls of over 58,000 heroes and trying to maintain a steady sound.
“It reminded me of a friend of mine who sounded Taps at John F. Kennedy’s funeral. He has the famous missed note in Taps. At Kennedy’s funeral, with the whole world watching, he messed up the 19th note. He was just mortified.’”
So is Taps hard to play?
“Yes and no,” Jones explained. “The notes are not difficult. The range is not difficult. What is difficult is that it is very slow. It’s a slow melody. It’s a thing that, you don’t want to make any mistakes with the world watching. They remember the mistake, rather than the reason for the event. It’s difficult from that standpoint. Of course, I come from the Vietnam era. So for me, there are a lot of ancillary emotions that enter the picture. Maybe a lot of younger people might not understand that. I never spent time in Vietnam, but still, I knew a lot of people who did. And I knew a lot of people who lost their lives. I’m just an Army brat. I grew up in the military my entire life. I had a very close association with it, although I was never on active duty.
“When I play Taps, I have to get my emotions under control,” Jones continued, “and playing for over 58,000 souls is an immense emotional pressure. I feel so blessed to be honored with this opportunity. This has been an incredible honor. Sounding Taps here for 58,276 fallen heroes is just immensely honorable and immensely emotional as well. I thank Tim Tetz and Lee Rubenstein, who is in charge of the whole thing, for allowing me to do this.”