Gary Marquardt is a testament to the fact that we can each do one thing that in turn has a huge impact on others. As a young man, Marquardt was classified as 4-F–unfit to serve due to a bleeding ulcer–when he tried to enlist to serve in Vietnam, a burden he has carried for years.
“I think ashamed is the word,” he says. “I was ashamed I was happy I didn’t have to go.” He built a company instead and then retired to a comfortable life in his home state of Minnesota with his wife, Joanie.
In 2014, he was stunned to hear mechanical Taps played at the military funeral of family acquaintance Delwin “Bud” Shanks. Marquardt knew he had to do something, so he began taking trumpet lessons. He struggled through his lessons just like any other student learning a new skill. His wife and neighbors struggled, too.
“It was awful,” Joanie laughs. Neighbor Bruce Hedblom laughs now, too. “No inhibitions,” he said of Marquardt’s daily practice sessions.
But all that hard work paid off. Now, there are no military families that listen to a machine play Taps at their loved one’s funeral if Gary is anywhere in the vicinity. He plays nearly every day at gravesites, proudly wearing the uniform of the organization, Bugles Across America.
“It just seemed that after what they’ve given that wasn’t much to ask,” he says. There are some times when he is headed to one funeral, only to hear about another in the area. Although they’re slight detours, he makes sure that all veterans are honored with this tradition which dates back to the Civil War.
At other times, regardless of the weather, he simply picks up his trumpet and walks through a cemetery, stopping dozens of times to play at the grave of any veteran. He states the name of the veteran, plays Taps, and then leaves a penny on the headstone or marker.
“It’s a last call, it’s daily rest,” says Marquardt. “It’s a prayer, to me.” We salute you, Gary, and all the Veterans you are honoring with your new found skill.