Every evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day at 7 p.m., you can relinquish the noise and pressures of the day by strolling through the 17 sacred acres of Gettysburg National Cemetery to witness the sounding of taps.
I have had the honor to participate in this moving ceremony almost two hundred times. Even though the actual ceremony stays the same, every evening is different. At the end of May and through early June, spring is still in the air. The grass that carpets the hallowed grounds is yellow green and cemetery’s wildlife is out and busy. And the glorious warming sun spotlights the bugler. These gifted musicians, whose patriotism brings them to the cemetery, honor our veterans by sounding taps. They sound a one-minute call of gratitude to the interred; a one minute call for the guests in attendance. These musicians travel from all over this nation to be here. I am overwhelmed by this love and devotion. This should make us all feel good.
By mid-July, I make note of the first chants of the resident cicadas. Summer is settling in and the cemetery’s foliage is lush and comforting. I start to notice the large shadow cast by the nearby trees creeping towards Soldiers’ National Monument. Large groups of tourists, along with local regulars, make their way to the ceremony. I also witness every bugler greeting each and every one after the ceremony. Interestingly, many of the tourists are from other countries. They are equally moved by the ceremony, by the sacrifice of the brave soldiers buried here and by the deeply moving words spoken by President Lincoln here in 1863. They want to stand where he stood. This should make us all feel good.
By late August, shade covers the spot where I stand to introduce the bugler. I can finally see the audience without squinting. Nature in the cemetery is at rest. It is quiet. It’s beauty is the very definition of American elegance. It is calm and serene. These seventeen sacred acres create a place that make us all better people.
One of the most beautiful scenes to unfold at the monument occurs in late August. This beautiful monument becomes wrapped in full shade except the Liberty statue at it’s top. I have interrupted my presentation to share the stunning sight to an audience focused on the bugler. It is a miraculous sight. In this most organic display, I stand in honor of the ultimate sacrifice given for freedom by the soldiers interred here and by the quiet bright light of Lincoln’s brief yet enduring address. Many thanks to the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, Taps for Veterans, and the Gettysburg National Military Park for supporting this poignant ceremony and supporting the chance for all of us to come together to honor the brave in a quiet light.