Taps in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Major David J. Murphy
  • U. S. Air Force
As NATO coalition forces began their evening meal, a bugle sounded Taps over the public affairs system at a Forward Operating Base in Mazar-e Sharif. The bugler's first note pierced the evening air at 5:16 p.m. local time, the exact moment (8:46 a.m. EDT) that American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the World Trade Center's North Tower in 2001. During the next 77 minutes, buglers all over the United States simultaneously sounded Taps at the impact moments of the other three hijacked airliners.

(The unison chorus of buglers was planned by Bugles Across America www.buglesacrossamerica.org), a non-profit organization linking live buglers with requests for military honors. "Please make appropriate adjustments for your time zone so that all buglers play at the exact same moments," said Fred Speckmann in an August email to the bugler volunteers. "Please remember that September 11, 2001, must never be forgotten, it was the beginning of our troops being committed to the fight against terrorism that has caused so many of our troops and civilians to be killed or maimed."

In the days leading up to the anniversary, Master Sgt. Keith McMillan, Senior Airman Shanel Phillippe, and Lt. Col. Rich Gaddis, all deployed to the NATO base, coordinated the memorial event with the American and German base leadership. Radio Andernach, a German Morale and Welfare radio station, recorded Gaddis' Taps rendition. The recording was used on the morning news and talk show to commemorate the solemn anniversary. Gaddis said, "I was inspired by all the cooperation we received. It was truly a group effort. A bugle was available, and I was honored to play it. The notes speak for themselves."

Organizing a group of servicemen outside the Mayor's Cell for a ceremony, Staff Sgt. McMillan remarked, "When I listened to my oldest daughter's eyewitness account of the second plane hitting the tower, I knew we were at war. This is a solace reminder of why we're here."

At 5:16 p.m. Afghan time, in the base command post, Battle Captain executive officer Friedrich announced, first in English, then in German, over the public address system, "In memory of the victims of September 11, 2001, a U.S. Air Force bugler will sound Taps." Then Gaddis sounded 24 notes into the microphone.

"To see the determination in Lt. Col. Gaddis was admirable," commented Senior Airman Phillippe, who helped obtain permission for the public ceremony. "I have not seen that kind of drive for honoring the fallen since the early 2000s."