Late war veteran remembered fondly

Sept. 29, 2010 at 4:29 a.m.

By Peter Riesz

The Victoria veterans community recently suffered a grievous loss. Mike Martinak, a long-time bugler at our military funerals, passed to the Great Beyond. Mike was a very kind, gentle soul, and we were all blessed to have known him. He had served our country honorably during the Korean War. He was totally devoted to participating in our military funerals, and we could always count on his presence to play "Taps" in honor of the deceased. Even toward the end, when he was struggling to be with us, there was never a complaint from him, although each of us knew he was not feeling well. He had played for an untold number of years and for an untold number of military funerals each year in all types of weather.

It is a long-standing tradition at military funerals for those who have served honorably, at a minimum, to have the U.S. flag folded and presented and for "Taps" to be played.

The story behind "Taps" is very interesting and sometimes falsely embellished. It first appeared in July 1862 during the Seven Days battle near Richmond, Va. There had been a day of very heavy fighting with many losses on both sides. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, of the Army of the Potomac, called in his bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, and worked with him to revise a standard bugle call named Lights Out. At the time, this was a tune played at the end of each day. They thought that tune to be too formal for the frequent funerals of that battle.

They worked throughout the night developing a tune to their liking. From these efforts, the traditional 24 notes of "Taps" emerged. It quickly became a very popular tune and was almost immediately adopted, although informally, for daily use. It was later formally adopted by the services to be played at all military funerals as a final salute of honor.

Most people do not know the protocol which is called for during the playing of "Taps." On hearing the first note, all attendees should come to a position of attention. It is then proper to render a salute. Persons in military uniforms should render a proper military salute. Others should salute by placing their right hand over their heart. This salute is maintained throughout the tune until the last note of Taps is sounded.

We will never find a substitute for Mike, but the Veterans Council is looking for a replacement to do this duty he so proudly performed. We need someone who is devoted to the call. If you would like to participate by playing "Taps" at our military funerals, please contact this column for further details.

As "Taps" is played at future military funerals, the gentle, sweet notes will slowly rise to the Above. I am sure that Mike will be very pleased to hear them. We salute you, Mike.

This column is a research project of Dr. Peter B. Riesz. Contact Riesz at or 361-575-4600.



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