January 6, 2005
Decatur County-- Teenagers often get criticized for their selfish ways, but put that judgment aside when you think of one young person, in particular. A budding musician honors people he never knew, but appreciates anyway.
It's hard to direct teenagers these days unless they play in the band. "I like to play, always been my dream to play," says Will Parker, a trumpet player.
The fifteen-year-old wants to play his trumpet anywhere he can, even at funerals for people he never knew. "We're just a bunch of old geezers," said a member of the rifle team.
He and several other veterans provide military funeral honors at least once, sometimes twice a week during the year. They look forward to seeing Will when they come to Bainbridge, because he's one of the few people who keep their tradition alive.
"Harder and harder to find now. You can't hardly find anybody who plays Taps now," says Guy Edwards of the American Legion.
Will feels right at ease with the veterans, old enough to be his grandparents. "They are funny and they make me feel good," says Will, as he approaches the veterans getting ready for another funeral.
Will got his break one night when his mother, Gina, and a local funeral director struck up a conversation. The director told her about how hard it was to find someone to play Taps. His mother saw an opportunity for her son to gain experience at funerals, knowing a military funeral happens rain or shine, and on this day, the rain came.
"That was my grandfather," says Kimberly Neels, as a flag-draped casket sat right in front of her, as friends stood in a light rain with umbrella open and dripping water. Then, a 21-gun salute, followed by Will's 24-note solo performance.
"I just like the sound of Taps. I get to give back to veterans what they've given to me," says Will, when asked why he volunteers to play the time honored musical tribute.
Appreciation from a teenager born decades after world wars and military conflicts, an appreciation not buried, but played just as it has for decades to an appreciative audience. "He would be honored. So honored," says Kimberly Neels after the funeral.
Honored by a teenager who would rather play his trumpet than play video games or sports, helping loved ones say good bye in first class military fashion, with a real trumpet player instead of a recording.
Will Parker already knows what he wants to do with his life. He wants to be a band director and attend Troy State University. The American Legion gave Will a certificate of appreciation recently.
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