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Archive for the ‘Ceremonies & Celebrations’ Category

“Taps” for Laurence Joseph Mensing (70), Career Army Specialist

Posted by glennled on February 22, 2019

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Once in awhile, a memorial service stands out as special among the many others at which I have sounded “Taps” during the past 10 years for a deceased veteran and his family and friends. Such was the case on Sunday, 10 February at Purdy & Watkins Funeral Home at Floral Hills in Lynnwood.

It was between snowstorms that we gathered in the chapel at 1 p.m. to remember and honor Laurence Joseph (“Larry Joe”) Mensing, who passed away in Mountlake Terrace on 21 January 2019. His son, Joe, had contacted me through Bugle Across America (BAA) for “Taps.” The officant was Anne Jenny, herself a veteran. Two of Larry Joe’s younger brothers and a niece spoke about his important impacts upon their lives. Their IMG_2701testimonies were emotional, even tearful. He was clearly adored and honored by his family and friends. One brother, with choked, cracking voice, said Larry Joe was his best friend and talked about how the Army had changed his older brother into a dignified gentleman. Another brother, pounding the podium and mourning the loss, said that all his life, he wanted to be just like Larry Joe. The niece said Larry Joe was known for pranks and teasing, and from a young age, she was always certain that he loved her.

Born and raised in Montana, Specialist (SPC) Mensing had joined the Army in 1968 and served almost 24 years. Afterwards, he was an active member of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He met his wife, Yoko Makishi, while stationed at Fort Buckner, Okinawa. They were married 45 years and had four children and six grandchildren. She preceded him in death. “After retiring,” reads the program, “more than anything ‘G-PA’ ala ‘Pa Pa’ loved spending time with family and friends.” He was the family leader. IMG_2720

The Army Honor Guard consisted of 9 soldiers; I had never seen so many at such a ceremony. They fired the three-volley rifle salute, and as six of them held the flag level above the casket, I sounded “Taps” on my beautiful Getzen bugle with the BAA engraving on the bell (see my blog post of 4 May 2015).

Later, as I watched the audience file out of the chapel, there were lots of red eyes and wet cheeks. They could not hold back. He was that beloved. On leaving, I went up to Joe, who held the flag in his arms. We shook hands, and I thanked him for the honor and privilege of sounding “Taps.” Like the others, his eyes were wet and red. RIP, Larry Joe. You were Special.

Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

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Who Was Arthur F. Church?

Posted by glennled on February 5, 2019

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A bugler’s headstone among the 5,000 graves in Evergreen-Washelli’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Seattle, including seven Medal of Honor recipients

 

For seven years (2011-17), I always stood in one spot to sound “Taps” at the annual Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony, held each December at Evergreen-Washelli’s Veterans Cemetery in north Seattle. That one spot is among about 5,000 veterans’ graves. It’s right next to one gravestone that had become quite special to me. I had developed a fond image of the man buried there. But this year, the ceremony was moved farther west within the cemetery (please see my blog post of 15 January 2019). I missed my old spot near my departed comrade from “Auld Lang Syne” (old times gone by). I knew his name but not his story.

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WWI U.S. Army recruitment poster for the horse cavalry

I first sounded “Taps” at the WAA ceremony on 10 December 2011. Prior to the ceremony, as the Honor Guard (rifle team) of VFW Post 1040 lined up along the sidewalk leading uphill to the Chimes Tower, I searched nearby among the hundreds of gravestones for a spot to stand. It’s important to be close to them but not so close that the ejected shell casings might hit you. Also, you want to be visible by the ceremony’s participants and audience.

I made my choice, positioned myself there, and waited for my cue. During the ceremony, I started to read the round-top gravestones nearby. To my left, I saw this inscription: “Arthur F. Church, Idaho, Bugler…”

Imagine that—how rare, how unusual! In my life, I’ve learned to pay close attention to such coincidences. Immediately, I was curious. Churchwas he a Christian believer? Idahosince 1851, when the first settlers built cabins on Alki Point, hundreds of thousands of people, including me, have moved to Seattle from everywhere. Born 28 October 1889America entered WWI in April 1917, when he was 27. Died 10 January 1945only four months afterwards came WWII’s Victory-in-Europe (V-E) Day. He was only 55 when he died. Had he been wounded in the war? Buglers were special targets; kill a bugler, and you disrupt your enemy’s communications. And there I was, 66 years later at age 71, standing near his marker, near his grave, near his remains, waiting to sound “Taps” at a ceremony meant to honor all those like him, who served.

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Glenn Ledbetter sounds “Taps” near headstone of Arthur F. Church, Bugler, in Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Evergreen Washelli, 2012

So, every time I’ve played “Taps” at any subsequent military ceremony near the Chimes Tower, that’s where I’ve always stood—next to Arthur. And lately, I’ve begun to ponder—Who was Arthur F. Church, Idaho, Bugler, 109th Infantry, 28th Division?

After much searching on the internet, I learned a lot about him. I read about the regiment and the division, his active duty in the military, his family including two brothers, one sister, and six half-siblings, his two wives but no children, his work, his troubles with narcotics and the law, his early death, and more. Let me focus on bugling because that’s what we have in common.

I had imagined that he might have been a career musician, perhaps even playing cornet in a military band. But it appears that Arthur was drafted into the Army toward the end of WWI and served only one year. He enlisted on 24 May 1918, and was discharged on 20 May 1919. The Armistice (cease fire agreement) that ended WWI was signed on 11 November 1918. He already was a married man. He had married Florence Strike in Wallace, Idaho on 2 April 1917. Did he play a brass instrument before entering the service? I don’t know. In any case, the Army made him a bugler, and apparently, that’s all the bugling he ever did.

Census records in 1920 and 1930 indicate that after the war, he lived as a lodger in Seattle and worked as a miner and a hook tender in the regrading industry. Other public records describe him thus at age 34: height 5’6″, weight 144 lbs, dark brown hair, brown eyes, medium build, ruddy complexion, with gold-crowned, upper left molar teeth and scars on the back of his head, right hand, and right thigh. Arthur seems to have had a “hard-knock life,” as the song goes in the musical, Annie.

Did he serve in Europe? Was he ever in combat? Did he ever sound bugle calls in battle—“To Arms, Charge, Retreat, Commence Firing, Cease Firing,” and more?  Or did he, like me, sound only those used in the daily routine and at ceremonies—“Reveille, Mess, Sick, School, Church, Assembly, Drill, Dress Parade, To the Color, Officers’ Call, Adjutants’ Call, Tattoo, Taps, Funeral March,” and more? Either way, it was important. As the soldiers said, “How else would we all know when to wake up and go to chow?”

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Bugle that sounded end of WWI, courtesy of National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.

There is a book that covers all the calls that every 1918 U.S. military bugler had to know. It’s by V.F. Safranek and was published in 1918 in New York by Carl Fischer, 158 pages. It’s entitled, Complete Instructive Manual for Bugle, Trumpet and Drum. Now we know what Arthur F. Church, Bugler, knew.

In addition, I own two other excellent bugle call books:

  • 67 Bugle Calls As Practiced in the Army and Navy of the United States, New Edition published by Carl Fischer in 1998. It is based upon John Philip Sousa’s A Book of Instruction for the Field Trumpet [Bugle] and Drum, also published by Carl Fischer in 1886.
  • Infantry Bugle Calls of the American Civil War, authored by George Rabbai and published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. in 1998. Forty-nine bugle calls are included, as well as narration, spoken commands, and anecdotes and stories from the accounts of infantry soldiers.
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American WWI buglers, including Leo Foster (right)

Arthur’s father is buried in Port Townsend, WA. His mother, older brother, and at least three of his half-siblings are buried at Evergreen-Washelli.

On 4 September 1945, Evergreen-Washelli applied for a military, upright marble headstone for Arthur. It was approved, shipped, and installed amongst his fellow veterans, as shown in the accompanying photos. Why does the inscription reference the state of Idaho? It might just be a clerical error because his Company D, 109th Regiment, 28th Division was neither created nor stationed in Idaho. They’re out of Pennsylvania. Neither was Arthur born in Idaho; he was born in South Dakota. But perhaps it was simply because Arthur probably was living with his bride in Idaho when he was drafted.

The next time I sound “Taps” near the Chimes Tower in Veterans Memorial Cemetery, I’ll again stand next to Arthur F. Church, whose gravestone bears the cross above his name.

Let me express my gratitude to Mary Ann Fuller, my primary information source, and to Karen Sipe for additional information presented in this article. Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

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“Taps” at 9th Annual Wreaths Across America Ceremony at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle

Posted by glennled on January 15, 2019

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ET1 Kyle Rushing (saluting) dedicates the Navy’s ceremonial wreath at Evergreen-Washelli’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Seattle

 

About 200 people gathered on 15 December 2018, at Veterans Cemetery, Evergreen-Washelli, in north Seattle at the 9th local Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony to remember our fallen military personnel who are buried there. The annual, half-hour img_2457event was emceed by Lorraine Zimmermann of the Veterans Memorial Wreath Foundation (VMWF). The guest speaker was Doyle Burke, retired Washington State Guard Command Sergeant. Then 7 wreaths were dedicated by representatives of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and POW/MIA.

Using my favorite Getzen bugle, I sounded “Taps” immediately after the Honor Guard of VFW Post 1040, Lynnwood fired the rifle salute. It was my seventh such performance. The ceremony concluded with the Parade of Wreaths. Finally, those in attendance placed wreaths on many of the gravestones of those servicemen and women who are buried there. The event’s message was “We collectively thank our military and their families for our freedom!”

For more detailed information on WAA, please use the Archives (see left column) to find my posts about previous local WAA ceremonies:

  • 9 January 2013
  • 16 December 2013
  • 28 April 2015
  • 5 February 2016
  • 30 December 2016
  • 29 December 2017

Mark your calendars for plans to attend the 10th annual ceremony on 14 December 2019. Volunteers and donors may contact Lorraine Zimmermann at https://www.facebook.com/Veterans-Memorial-Wreath-Foundation-362631617642740/.  Following is a photo gallery of scenes at this year’s ceremony. Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

By Gayle Caya, Courtesy of VMWF

 

By Tonya Christoffersen, Courtesy of VMWF

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“Taps” Concludes Veterans Day Ceremonies at St. Matthew Catholic School in Seattle and Cottage Lake Elementary School in Woodinville

Posted by glennled on December 18, 2018

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Veterans Day ceremony, Cottage Lake Elementary School, Woodinville, with Kelsey Brady on piano, 11-09-2018

 

Some schools take Veterans Day very seriously and conduct superb ceremonies for the students and their guests. On 9 November, I sounded “Taps” at two such schools—St. Matthew Catholic School in Seattle in the morning and Cottage Lake Elementary School in the afternoon. Each ceremony was different, and both were outstanding. The chief organizer at St. Matthew was Kara Herber, 4th grade teacher, and at Cottage Lake, Kelsey Brady, music teacher. Ms. Herber found me through Bugles Across America (please see http://www.buglesacrossamerica.org/). Brig. Gen. Raymond W. Coffey, USAVR, referred Ms. Brady to me.

Ensign Shirkydra Roberts, U.S. Navy, was the principal speaker at St. Matthew. Please see her IAME website, https://impactaspiremotivate.com/. IAME stands for “Impact, Aspire, Motivate Enterprises.” General Coffey commands the 10th Region of the U.S. Volunteer-Joint Services Command, a ceremonial unit that conducts military honors at various events in the region. Please see my blog posts of 11 July and 17 December 2018, and 19 June 2014.

I closed each ceremony with the sounding of “Taps” on my wonderful Getzen bugle (see my blog post of 4 May 2015 ). Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

St. Matthew Catholic School

Cottage Lake Elementary School

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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of WWI Armistice at Veterans Day Ceremony in Lynnwood

Posted by glennled on December 17, 2018

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Most Veterans Day ceremonies in the USA were held this year on the observed holiday, Monday, 12 November, but VFW Post 1040 elected to conduct theirs on the real date, Sunday, 11 November—celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the World War I armistice at 11 a.m. on 11/11/1911.

Using my beautiful Getzen bugle, I sounded “Assembly” to call the ceremony to order, followed by the entrance procession, led by the Northwest Junior Pipe Band playing “The Marine Corps Hymn” honoring the 243rd birthday of the Corps. NWJPB was followed by the Legion of Honor of the Nile Shrine Center and the Honor Guard of VFW Post 1040 of Lynnwood. As the ceremony closed, I was honored to sound “Echo Taps” with my trumpet student, Aidan Grambihler, trumpeter in Garfield High School’s Concert Orchestra in Seattle. Bryan Kolk is conductor of GHS’s three orchestras.

Aidan started lessons with me almost three years ago (please see my blog post of 13 April 2016). As Aidan has learned, playing bugle calls helps a trumpeter keep sharp articulation and slotting.

Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

 

Courtesy of Lynnwood Today

 

By Myra Rintamaki

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Boy Scouts of America, Lynnwood Troop 49 and Cub Scout Pack 331

 

By Holly Grambihler

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“Taps” at 4th Annual Skyline Memorial Walk in Seattle

Posted by glennled on November 7, 2018

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Window cleaners on the job, north tower of Skyline Towers of First Hill, a Presbyterian retirement community

 

Today, at the fourth annual Skyline Memorial Walk, some 225 names of deceased family members and friends were read aloud as the bell was tolled. Then “We Remember Them” by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer was also read aloud. And finally, I sounded “Taps” on my Getzen bugle, here for the third straight year (see my posts of 10 Nov 2016 and 19 Nov 2017). Rev. Elizabeth Graham, Chaplain at Skyline Towers Retirement Community in downtown Seattle, presided over the ceremony which attracted about 20 residents, mostly women. The group then took the Memorial Walk in the courtyard outside the meeting room where they found, among the lovely plants, individual signs bearing the names of the departed.

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On the job at Skyline Towers Retirement Community in downtown Seattle

Rev. Graham said that about two weeks ago, a notice was sent to all the residents and staff, inviting them to identify loved ones whom they would want to be remembered at this ceremony. Here is an excerpt from “We Remember Them,” honoring and paying tribute to those who have passed:

“At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them…At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn; We remember them…When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them…When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them…For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now part of us as, We remember them.”

Afterwards, looking up, I saw two courageous men high up the side of the building, dangling off thin lines, working, defying gravity, cheating death, earning a living, serving others, producing something of value—clean windows. We will remember them, too. For as John Donne wrote in 1624,

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

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Pocket Trumpet for Three Songs at My 60th High School Reunion, SHS Class of 1958, Sinton, Texas

Posted by glennled on October 28, 2018

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Jupiter Pocket Trumpet, Model JPT-416

On 19-20 October in Fulton, Texas, about 30 of us classmates gathered for our reunion, celebrating 60 years after graduation from little Sinton High School in little Sinton, Texas, near Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico. Almost another 30 of us have already passed away.  Recognizing, at our 50th reunion in 2008, that Father Time is on the march, we th1JWTGAUGstarted having our reunions every two years. This year, we decided to cut that in half. From here on, we’ll be getting together every year—it’s our SMO schedule—“See Me Out!”

Before the reunion, my wife and I had lunch at the Water Street Oyster Bar in Corpus Christi with my cousin, Tricia Brown, to celebrate her birthday. As we reminisced about the high school football games, pep squad, cheerleaders and band, I got a bright idea. A few days later, I presented it to our class reunion leader, Hattie Beth Fojtik. How about letting me play the “SHS Fight Song” on my pocket trumpet, while everyone else sings it, like we used to at the Friday night games in the old football stadium [no longer in use]? I got the green light.

So, what did I do? Naturally, I played three songs by memory: the fight song, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and “Auld Lang Syne.” I handed out the lyrics, and they all sang! In the banter that sprang up amongst us, we honored our former football players, cheerleaders, pep squad, band members, and veterans. It was grand.

Check out my Jupiter pocket trumpet in my blog post of 31 March 2018. When we travel, I take it with me so that I can keep in practice and not let my embouchure muscles atrophy; i.e., keep my chops strong and flexible. I’ll probably take it again next year, too, although who knows whether they’ll ever let me play it again (chuckle).

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Edmonds 4th of July Parade

Posted by glennled on July 15, 2018

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Color Guard, VFW Post 8870, Edmonds, 4th of July Parade, 2018. Photo by Nancy MacDonald.

 

2018, another year, another 4th of July Parade in Edmonds where I live. Each year I’m honored to march with other veterans near the front of the parade, carrying my bugle as VFW Post 1040 Bugler. This year, I got to carry the U.S. Navy flag, too, right behind the Color Guard from VFW Post 8870. As Michael Medved, radio talk show host says, the USA is “the greatest country on God’s green earth!” How lucky we are to live here in this, the best era in human history!

Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

 

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Flag-Changing Ceremony on Flag Day at Cristwood Park Retirement Community in Shoreline

Posted by glennled on July 11, 2018

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U.S. Joint Volunteer Service Command Color Guard from Shoreline prepares to hoist the new flag

With love and respect, Elizabeth Hudson takes good care of the flag that flies on the grounds of Cristwood Park Retirement Community in Shoreline, where she is the Life Enrichment Coordinator (please see https://cristaseniorliving.org/explore-retirement-lifestyles/communities/). Three years ago on 12 June 2014, Ms. Hudson hosted a similar flag-changing ceremony at which I sounded two bugle calls, and this year on 14 June, she did it again. Both times it was on our national Flag Day. (Please see my blog post of 28 June 2014.)

For me, however, there was a big difference in the two ceremonies—this year, starting about 30 minutes before the ceremony, Ms. Hudson let me play patriotic songs as the crowd of about 25 residents slowly gathered. Then during the ceremony, I first sounded “Retreat” as the U.S. Joint Volunteer Service Command Color Guard from Shoreline lowered and removed the old, worn flag, followed by “To the Color,” as they hoisted the new flag to full mast on the flagpole. Afterwards, she invited me to play several more songs as the crowd dispersed.

Nice weather, nice day, nice music, nice ceremony, nice flags. It’s nice to be the VFW Post 1040 (Lynnwood) Bugler. You get to do nice things like this for nice people.

Photos are courtesy of Cristwood Park Retirement Community. Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

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Three “Taps” on Memorial Day In Lynnwood, Seattle, and Mercer Island

Posted by glennled on June 6, 2018

 

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Skyline Towers Retirement Community, Seattle

This Memorial Day was a first for me—I played bugle calls at three different ceremonies, first in Lynnwood (11 am), then in downtown Seattle (1:30 pm), and finally, on Mercer Island (2:30 pm).

In downtown Lynnwood, VFW Post 1040 hosted its annual Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Park. We used the bugle calls, “Assembly,” to commence the program, “Echo Taps” to honor those who died in military service, and “To the Color” to hoist the flag to full mast at noon. Gavin Itzka, trumpeter, Skyview Middle School, Bothell, played the echo part of “Echo Taps.” The VFW Post 1040 Honor Guard fired the rifle salute, and the Nile Shriners Legion of Honor Color Guard presented the colors. The Northwest Junior Pipe Band, under the direction of Kevin Auld, played six pieces, including “Scotland the Brave,” “The Marine Corps Hymn,” and “Going Home,” paying tribute to all veterans, firefighters, and police officers. Boy Scouts Troop 49 of Lynnwood and Cub Scout Pack 331 of Edmonds placed the flags throughout the park, distributed the programs, and presented the Armed Forces flags as the “Armed Forces Medley” was played through the sound system supplied by Sound Church of Lynnwood. Lt. Col. Dan Matthews, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), gave an inspirational keynote speech. For more information about these organizations, please see:

 

The ceremony at Skyline on First Hill in Seattle, a Presbyterian retirement community, was quite unique. It’s called the “Sparkle Release” memorial ceremony because, as the names of Seattle-ite servicemen and women who were lost in the past year are read by Rev. Elizabeth Graham, the attendees release into the wind brightly colored threads meant to attract birds who then use them in building their nests. “It’s about rebirth and hope for the new life that is to come,” said Rev. Graham. The courtyard setting and the Seattle skyline view IMG_5592from in between the two Skyline buildings are spectacular. The south building is Skyline Terraces, for assisted living, and the north building is Skyline Towers, for independent living (please see my blog posts of 10 Nov. 2016 and 19 Nov. 2017). At the conclusion of the ceremony, I sounded “Taps” on my Getzen bugle.

From there, I hustled across the I-90 floating bridge to Island House Retirement Community in downtown Mercer Island, where about 50 residents had gathered for their Memorial Day ceremony. Sounding “Taps” was incorporated into the program. As I sounded those 24 notes, several veterans in the audience, wearing their VFW and American Legion caps, stood and saluted in honor of their fallen comrades in arms.

Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

 

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