How a 93-year-old veteran is still serving his country as a bugler
'It's the least I can do,' he says
MADISON, Wis. — If you find yourself at a military funeral in the Madison area, you’ll hear taps played at the end the ceremony.
It’s 24 notes from a bugle or trumpet to honor a fallen service man or woman. And chances are a veteran who now lives in Lodi will be playing taps.
His name is Jack Fitzgerald, a retired music professor from UW Stevens Point and a World War II veteran. He’s been playing at military funerals since 1994.
That’s the year he went to apply for a VA housing loan. He told them if they ever need someone to play taps, let him know. That was 24 years and more than 2,900 military funerals ago.
Fitzgerald has been a musician all his life, playing in his high school band, the long-gone Green Bay Packers “Lumberjack Band,” and in his naval stint, the band aboard the USS Saratoga.
While on board Fitzgerald volunteered to man one of the ship’s 4-caliber guns. He was on that gun with the ship was attacked by Japanese kamikaze pilots.
Fitzgerald recalls, “At 5 o clock one night I’m in the chow line and I hear (bugle sounds), but the bugler added something…I never heard that before, on the double and I looked out and I saw four planes in our landing pattern, I thought they were ours.” They weren’t.
The ship sustained heavy casualties and damage and was sent back to Hawaii, ending Fitzgerald’s and the Saratoga’s war mission.
Now retired, Fitzgerald plays taps to remember the friends he lost on the Saratoga and to fallen servicemen and women.
“It’s the least I can do, ” he says.
Fitzgerald hopes to keep playing and hit the 3,000 service mark some day.
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