Buglers of Arlington National Cemetery
Five prominent buglers
Arlington Mansion and 200 acres of ground immediately surrounding it were officially designated as a military cemetery June 15, 1864, by the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. The mansion was originally the home of Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee. Today, the current size of Arlington National Cemetery is 612 acres, and more than 260,000 Americans are buried within the grounds. Veterans from all the nation’s wars are buried in the cemetery, from the American Revolution through the Persian Gulf War, Somalia and the current conflict in Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.
The Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and the grounds in its immediate vicinity are administered by the National Park Service while the cemetery is run by the Department of the Army. Funerals are normally conducted five days a week, excluding weekends. Funerals including interments and inurnments average 20 per day. The flags in ANC are flown at half-staff from one-half hour before the first funeral until one-half hour after the last funeral each day.
Taps can be heard an average of thirty times a day at Arlington National Cemetery. The bugle call is sounded at the many funerals and ceremonies held there, including wreath ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force have bands stationed in the Washington, D.C. area, from which buglers are assigned to play for various ceremonies at the cemetery.
The bugler plays an important role in the military funeral. A bugler reports to the gravesite before each funeral. During the honors portion of the ceremony, a firing party fires three volleys. This is followed by the sounding of Taps. The military honors conclude with the folding of the flag and its presentation to the next of kin.
An atmosphere of reverence is desired throughout the cemetery. Upon hearing Taps, visitors to Arlington should cease conversation, face toward the music, and place their right hand over their heart. Military members in uniform should render the hand salute. Today, the use of actual valveless bugles is limited because of logistical requirements. Most bugle calls at Arlington are sounded on a valved trumpet or cornet. However, the US Army Band retains the tradition of using bugles in ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The following are brief bios of buglers who sounded Taps at ANC.
FRANK WITCHEY (1891-1945) Third Cavalry Regiment
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Staff Sergeant Frank Witchey started blowing bugles and trumpets when he was 9. One of his comrades in the Third Cavalry said at the time of his retirement that he was at his best in blowing Taps. “Not many people were dry-eyed when he got through,” said the soldier. Sgt. Witchey sounded Taps at the interment of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1921, with President Harding presiding. He also sounded Taps for the funerals of President Woodrow Wilson, Lt. General Nelson A. Miles, Lt. General S. B. M. Young, Major General Leonard Wood and Colonel William Jennings Bryan. The bugle used by Sergeant Witchey was the one originally issued to him by the Army. The day after he blew Taps for the Unknown Soldier on armistice Day 1921, he bought it from the Quartermaster for $2.50. He had the instrument gold-plated and a record of all the important ceremonies at which it was blown engraved on it. Sgt. Witchey is buried at Arlington in Section 18.
GEORGE MYERS (1920-1998) US Army Band
Sergeant First Class George Myers served in the US Army Band from 1945-1961. He was principal bugler for the band and sounded Taps at the interment of the WWII/Korean War Unknowns on May 30, 1958. He also sounded Taps at the funerals of General John “Black Jack” Pershing, General George C. Marshall, General Hap Arnold and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. He retired in 1981 from Longfellow Intermediate School in McLean and taught trumpet privately. He was a native of Kokomo, Indiana and was a music graduate of Butler University. He received a second bachelor’s degree, in education, from American University Sgt. Myers is buried in Section 34 near the gave of General Pershing.
KEITH COLLAR CLARK (1927-2002)
Keith Clark was the Principal Bugler with The United States Army Band who was placed in the world spotlight when he was called to sound Taps at the Funeral of John F. Kennedy. Clark was born on November 21, 1927, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and studied trumpet with Clifford Liliya and Lloyd Geisler. After graduation from Interlochen Music School, he played with the Grand Rapids Symphony. In 1946, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as trumpet soloist with the United States Army Band. A deeply religious man, his life-long passion for rare books and hymns resulted in a publication, A Select Bibliography for the Study of Hymns. It was during his tenure with the Army Band that Clark received national attention as the bugler who sounded Taps for John F. Kennedy’s funeral. The Taps will be forever remembered as the Broken Taps. His bugle is on display at Arlington National Cemetery. After retiring from the army, Clark went on to a successful career of teaching, performing, and writing. His love of hymns brought him much recognition as a scholar and he has received numerous awards. He lived in Florida and was quite active as a trumpeter. His collection of Hymns was acquired by Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA in 1982. Mr. Clark’s great love for hymnody and Psalmody resulted in this large collection from various dealers and individuals. Containing more than 9,000 volumes, the Clark Hymnology Collection includes thousands of hymnbooks from various American denominations and churches, as well as several well-known books on hymnody from the 17th century to the present.
PATRICK MASTROLEO (1931-2010) US Army Band
Sergeant Major Patrick Mastroleo served in the US Army band from 1956-1991. He sounded Taps at the funerals of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Johnson. Mastroleo became the principal bugler of the US Army Band in February, 1968 and served in that position until his retirement. On May 28, 1984, he sounded Taps for the interment of the Vietnam Unknown. President Reagan presided. The Vietnam Conflict Unknown was disinterred in 1998 and identified as Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie. Blassie was reburied at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri.
Funeral Procession for SGM Mastroleo at Arlington NOV, 2010
WOODROW ENGLISH, US Army Band
SGM Woodrow “Woody” English spent the first 14 years of his career in the ceremonial component of “Pershing’s Own,” as well as The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. While a member of these ensembles, SGM English took part events that greatly impacted the nation, including the funeral of General of the Army Omar Bradley, the 1977 Camp David Peace Accords hosted by President Jimmy Carter, and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. In 1991 he was named Trumpet Soloist of The U.S. Army Concert Band and assumed the role as the organization’s Special Bugler. In this capacity, SGM English stood as a symbol of excellence of the premier performing ensemble of the nation’s senior service for nearly 20 years, and performed at burials and memorials for some of the most prominent Americans in our history including President Ronald Reagan. SGM English is immortalized in the digital recording used in a bugle played at veterans funerals every day around the country. He retired from the US Army Band in 2010.
Witchey’s bugle is at The 3rd Cavalry Museum at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The interment ceremony for the Unknowns of WoWar II and Korea at the Tomb May 30, 1958. President Eisenhower presided and Vice President Nixon acted as next of kin.
Vietnam Unknown is laid to rest at Arlington May, 1984