A 9-year old’s letter to a US Army Bugler in 1963
Several days after the state funeral for President John F. Kennedy on November 25, 1963, a young boy named Eddie Hunter sat at a Royal typewriter and wrote a letter to Sergeant Keith Clark of the US Army Band. Clark had sounded Taps at the funeral ceremonies and his imperfect rendition of the call was still reverberating in the memories of millions of listeners. To many Americans, Clark had spoken to the nation’s sorrow—a “bugler’s tear,” it was called by some newspapers. Many had believed the flaw was intended, as in a “French Taps” or a “sanglot (sob)”. It was not. The missed 6th note of Clark’s Taps was due to the cold and the almost deafness he experienced from having the firing party fire the three volleys so close to his ear.
In the weeks that followed the funeral, many cards and letters were sent to Clark thanking him for the rendition and expressing their understanding for the missed note. One note in particular stated, “Hold your head high…In your one sad note, you told the world of our feelings.”
Young Eddie Hunter from Plymouth, Ohio was a trumpet player in his elementary school band. In late November, 1963 he wrote Clark, “You played taps very nicely…. Anybody is bound to make a tiny mistake in front of millions opon (sic) millions of people. I did not notice it at first until they reran the picture. YOU SHOULD HERE (sic) SOME OF THE THINGS I PLAY.”
Writing letters was not something new to Eddie. He wrote many letters to personalities including the NASA astronauts who were the popular heroes of the day. He even received letters back, including a reply from John Glenn. Along with millions of Americans, he had watched the funeral proceedings on the family television. He recalled feeling bad about the missed note and decided to write Clark, even though he was not sure of the bugler’s name or address. Like most of the other letters written to Sergeant Clark in the wake of the funeral, Eddie’s letter was simply addressed to “The Bugler, Washington, DC.” And like all the other correspondence sent to Clark in the weeks following, it made it to the Army bugler, although it made a side trip through the US Marine Band where it was received on December 16, 1963.
Clark, like he did with almost every letter he received, wrote back to Eddie. Eddie was surprised when he received a reply from Clark, especially in light of not having the name of the bugler or even an address. Hunter says, “Today, I could have had a ton of information on the person within an hour after the event. I basically just sent a letter to ” a guy in Washington D.C.” and I believed I was likely the only person who did such a thing, so when the reply came I was just as amazed as surprised.” He thought he was the only one who wrote to Clark, not knowing there were dozens of letters sent from all over the country.
Clark wrote expressing his thanks and sorrow about the note and his”hope that all people will make every effort to live in a more Christian way” He hoped Eddie would practice and be a good musician in his school band and closed, “Your Friend, Keith Clark.”
Eddie responded with a follow-up letter, “The trumpet is not my specialty (yet) because I am only 10 years old and can only play easy songs with notes up to B#… I am practicing hard to be a fine musician like you.”
After his initial correspondence with Clark, Eddie continued his trumpet studies, playing throughout his school years at Plymouth High School. He recalls playing for many Memorial Day observances in the local cemetery where he sounded echo Taps with a fellow student. He eventually gave up the trumpet while studying at Eastern Kentucky University
50 years later….
Eddie Hunter, now Edward Hunter, is a professional voiceover talent who does work for television, radio, corporate and product demonstrations. Although Hunter decided to pursue a career in broadcasting he still stays in touch with his high school band director. He graduated from Plymouth High School in 1971, studied at Eastern Kentucky University, and graduated from the University of Toledo in 1976. He worked on air in radio for about 10 years and as a TV news Assignment Editor for 8 years. Currently a freelance advertising copywriter and voice actor, he does commercials, corporate video narrations and just finished narrating his second audiobook. He was married for 24 years to Debi Hunter, a high school English teacher. She passed away in September of 2002 from diabetes complications. A former private pilot and certified flight instructor, Ed currently resides in Toledo, Ohio.
50 years, the writer of a letter to an Army Bugler was reunited with his letters written as a young boy. On Saturday November 16th, 2013 Eddie Hunter traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to take part in the ceremonies marking the 50th Anniversary of the sounding of Taps at the funeral for President Kennedy. The commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery included a ceremony at the Old Amphitheater, a massed sounding of Taps by over 100 buglers from across the country, wreath ceremonies at the grave of Keith Clark and the Tomb of the Unknowns, and a showing of a special movie about the bugler’s statue in the Arlington Welcome Center.
Photos and movies from the event can be found BY CLICKING HERE
Thanks to Elizabeth Ann!
© 2013 Jari Villanueva www.Tapsbugler.com
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