Oak Ridge Detachment Bugler Still Playing TAPS at 91 Years Young

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Turners Falls bugler still playing taps at 91: ‘I do this for the veterans’


    Staff Writer

    Published: 11/10/2021 5:14:05 PM

    TURNERS FALLS — The bugle call taps is a solemn, hauntingly beautiful piece played at flag ceremonies and the funerals of service members and veterans. And when there has been a death among the ranks of the Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment over the past 15 years, you can bet Donald Girard was the man behind the tune.

    “I do this for the veterans,” said the 91-year-old, an honorary member of the detachment in Bernardston. “It gives me a pleasure to be able to do this, even though I was not in the active service.”

    Girard, a lifelong Turners Falls resident, explained he was drafted for the Korean War but got rejected due to a medical issue.

    “Since the day they told me I couldn’t go in, I always felt very bad that I couldn’t join them,” he said, adding that performing at funerals is “something to feel as (though) I did my part.”

    He is slated to perform taps at the Soldiers Memorial Committee’s ceremony at Soldiers Memorial Park on Avenue A this morning.

    Taps, a variation of an earlier bugle call, was arranged in its present form by Union Army Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield. It was officially recognized by the United States Army in 1874 and became a standard component to U.S. military funerals in 1891.

    Girard explained veterans are near and dear to him because his two sons, James and Gerald, served in the U.S. Army for a combined 43 years. Twenty-five years ago, Girard retired from Greenfield Savings Bank after 45 years.

    Tim McCrory, junior vice commandant of the Marine Corps League Oak Ridge Detachment, met Girard nearly 15 years ago after tracking him down to ask if the detachment could borrow his bugle to play taps for an occasion.

    “He volunteered his services and he’s been doing it ever since,” said McCrory, who was commandant at that time.

    Girard was made an honorary member 11 years ago during his surprise 80th birthday party at the French King Restaurant in Erving.

    “He’s quite a man,” McCrory said.

    Brian Brooks, the Oak Ridge Detachment’s commandant, said Girard was made an honorary member due to his commitment and contributions.

    “He loves his country and he loves giving back to veterans,” Brooks said. “He still does a funeral whenever he can and is more than willing to honor our nation’s veterans.”

    Brooks, who was in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2004 to 2008, said the detachment is open to all veterans.

    “We definitely value his contribution and he’s definitely been a valued member for as long as I can remember,” he said.

    Girard said he began playing brass instruments in seventh grade. He started with trombone, his favorite, and eventually learned tuba and baritone. He played in the Shriners Band for 25 years until the drives to Springfield two or three times a week took their toll.

    “I just reached a point, ‘Hey, you’re going to be 90 soon. Slow up,’” Girard recalled. “I loved it. I wish I was still playing.”

    He sticks to the bugle now due to some physical limitations. He also has an issue with his lip and uses a mechanical insert that fits into the bugle’s bell. He said playing feels like his patriotic duty.

    “I say I’m going to play taps until the day they put me in the ground,” Girard said, adding that it is important to take the time to reflect on the sacrifices made by others.

    Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.