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Memorial Day At Arlington

The Flying Tigers Ceremony at Arlington
My Memorial Day Story

I was on active duty with the USAF Band from 1985-2008 as a trumpeter and bugler in the Ceremonial Brass. In 1988 I was assigned to sound Taps at the annual reunion and memorial service for the Flying Tigers, the famed WWII flying unit in China. (General Claire Chennault who led the Flying Tigers is buried next to the Old Amphitheater) The ceremony was held every year on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend.

My first Flying Tigers ceremony

I was told to report to the Old Amphitheater, which I was told is located next to the Arlington House. My point of contact was a Mr. Robert Lee.

OK, I thought. Go to the Arlington House and ask for Robert Lee. Maybe this was the hazing for the new guy, just like the 3rd US infantry regiment would tell the FNGs (a military term) to go to the First Sergeant and get the keys to Summerall Field.

So you can imagine my trepidation at reporting early on the Saturday morning and walking around looking for an elderly Virginian around the Old Amphitheater.

Turns out Mr. Robert Lee was a 5 ft. 7 Chinese gentlemen who had served in the Flying Tigers.  When I explained who I was looking for he had a good laugh and we became friends. He made sure that every year when the bugler was requested my name was on the request form. I sounded Taps at the service up until they finally ended it due to the very few remaining members left. Every year he made sure I would be recognized and sometimes given a token of appreciation of some sort of 8th AF coffee mug or patch. It was something I always looked forward to and was sad to see it end.

Also, each year the service was also attended by the ANC Superintendent, Mr. John Metzler. You can imagine how busy he was on Memorial Day, yet he took the time to attend this special ceremony in honor of the Americans and Chinese who served in this special unit. Through these ceremonies I became acquainted with Mr. Metzler and that led to working with him on having the Taps exhibit at Arlington and moving the JFK Bugle to its display spot in the Welcome Center.
I’m grateful to Mr Lee and Mr Metzler.

My last Flying Tigers ceremony


  1. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | May 28, 2019

    Thanks so much!!

  2. Mary Clark Mary Clark May 28, 2019

    I truly enjoy these posts, though I myself am not a bugler or trumpet player.
    Keith Clark (JFK bugler) was my friend, mentor, and the reason I went into the field of music education. He was a huge inspiration to me from the time I was 9 years old. It was a special experience for me to attend the ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the JFK funeral and taps, and to hear, and talk with, his daughter Nancy, and his wife, Marge (who incidentally, was my piano teacher when I was a teenager).
    I became an instrumental music teacher in the Fairfax County (VA) public schools, where I taught many a 5th and 6th grader to play, among all of the other band instruments, the trumpet. Some of them were very serious about their instrument, and went on to middle and high school playing in the bands. I usually lost track of them after public school, but my hope was always that they would continue with their instruments into adulthood.
    Recently, I mentored a young man, a Boy Scout, as he sought to earn his bugle badge, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. He knew every bugle call, played each well, and talked intelligently about the history of the trumpet and bugle. I was proud to sign him off on his badge, and prouder still to attend his Eagle Court of Honor.
    Many thanks for this site. It is a distinct pleasure for this 76-year-old DC/Arlington VA native to read, as I’ve spent most of my years since age 13 following the US Army and Marine Bands (Navy and Air Force too), and am currently hiring many of the players for music in the church in Bethesda MD where I am Director of Instrumental Music.

  3. Lowell Pinney Lowell Pinney May 25, 2019

    I was in the 264th US Army Band in Ft Shafter, Hawaii, 1961-1963, and played Taps many times in the US cemetery in Punchbowl crater. It was an honor to be a part of that tradition. I will be with the Crossroads Brass Band on June 8th in the Gettysburg Brass Festival.

  4. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | May 29, 2018


  5. Sam McCright Sam McCright May 26, 2018

    Jari, What kind of Horn are you playing? Is it a shepards crook cornet?

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