Paying Respect To Those Who Served

Vince Pettinelli at Gettysburg National Cemetery
Vince Pettinelli at Gettysburg National Cemetery (July 31st, 2020).

I was very fortunate to grow up with a father who was a Veteran.  My dad served in WWII and was part of the 76th Infantry Division where he served both as a soldier and also a musician.  As a kid, I spent a good amount of time around WWII Vets, as a lot of his friends served.  He was also involved in the local American Legion Post as well as later in his life working for a veterans in need organization.  So, needless to say, my education of the importance of our military and those who served was instilled in me at a young age.

When I was in the sixth grade at the Alpha Public School, I began playing Taps for military funerals.  At that time, the American Legion Post #446 of Alpha, NJ had a color guard detail that would attend funerals to provide the military honors for a veteran.  It was around that time that I was beginning to play in the Alpha Legion Band, which my dad directed. So, when it came time to play Taps, I would bring my uniform to school and when my dad came to sign me out, I would change and be on the way.  This opportunity continued throughout my high school years.  If my class schedule permitted, it was important to me to go and play.   To this day, if called, I will try to accommodate the request if I possibly can.

Although the summer of 2020 will forever be known as the “Summer of Covid,” it did provide me with a great opportunity to pair the love I have for the Battle of Gettysburg and The Civil War with the honor and duty of performing Taps. The Lincoln Fellowship, in partnership with Taps for Veterans, and the Gettysburg National Military Park, presented a nightly program called 100 Nights of Taps every evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day at the Soldier’s Monument in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The event is open to anyone.  To be considered to perform, one must submit an application to the committee who makes the decision on who is selected to perform.  This year, buglers representing 17 states were selected to come to Gettysburg. I had the honor of performing on July 31st and again on September 4th .

Soldiers' Monument at Gettysburg National Cemetery

The Gettysburg National Cemetery was created shortly after the battle. After 3 days of fighting in the tiny town on July 1-3, 1863, the result of the conflict would forever change the landscape and importance of the community.  The aftermath of the battle left carnage and destruction throughout the town. Most of the farms were decimated and many farmers lost everything. With over 7000 Union and Confederate deaths in just three days of fighting, prominent Gettysburg attorney David Wills led a group to acquire land and establish a national cemetery for the battle on what is known as Cemetery Hill.  With a unified effort throughout the North, the creation of the cemetery happened very quickly. The official dedication occurred on November 19, 1863, which featured President Abraham Lincoln and the delivery of the immortal Gettysburg Address.  The centerpiece of the cemetery would be the soldier’s monument, which would not be completed until 1865.  The impressive 60 foot tall monument was designed as an allegory, which would tell a story of peace and plenty following a historic struggle. There are over 3500 Union soldiers buried here as well as other veterans from the Civil War to Vietnam.

For the nightly program, the buglers stand on the base of the monument to play.  It is awe inspiring to be standing on such an important and solemn location for our American history.  To honor those who served in the turning point battle of the Civil War, a war, which forever changed our country to make all men equal is a proud moment for me. The grounds of the cemetery played an important role in the battle, one that you can feel upon entering the cemetery. 

I was thankful to have been chosen for this honor.  It was a very special and significant moment in my life, one, which I will never forget.  I was overjoyed to be able to go out for a second opportunity in September.  I look forward to applying again in 2021 and a hope to have an opportunity to once again pay respect to those who served…

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