- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000

The funeral was, in many ways, a typical military ceremony: a gun-volley salute for the dead, a precisely folded flag for his widow. But it was punctuated with an increasingly rare touch the somber notes of taps ringing clearly from a Marine's two-valve brass bugle.

The sheer number of funerals for veterans who die at a rate of 1,500 a day often forces the military to rely on a compact-disc player to deliver that traditional song. But the U.S. Drum and Bugle Corps at the Marine Barracks in Southeast, Washington, D.C., vows never to use such shortcuts.

"In my 16 years here, we have never denied anyone final honors," said Chief Warrant Officer Brian Dix, the director of the Drum and Bugle Corps.

The Drum and Bugle Corps deployed Sgt. Scott Mills last Thursday afternoon to provide musical support in a "standard honors" ceremony in Laurel for retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Harold Pippin Jr.. He joined 15 other Marines from Andrews Air Force Base, which did not have anyone who could play taps.

"It is a privilege to provide honors, and it's best to say that we should always be able to maintain that privilege. Marines will always handle the task at hand," Chief Warrant Officer Dix said.

He said his buglers perform over 200 standard honors funerals a year, about 20 percent of them for those who served in other branches of the armed forces and who have made a special request for a Marine bugler.

The Marine Barracks, at Eighth and I streets SE, is home to the Drum and Bugle Corps and as several of the troops there claim is the only base in the country that performs live calls of the day such as morning colors, chow call and evening colors.

There are 74 brass and percussion musicians in the Drum and Bugle Corps, and every three months a different unit of 10 buglers shares both performing the calls of the day and funeral support.

"Most people don't know what we can offer," Chief Warrant Officer Dix said, adding that the family or friends of any honorably discharged Marine regardless of rank or term of service who request a live bugler from the Drum and Bugle Corps at their funeral will receive one.

"We're lucky they're right here Eighth and I is really supportive," said Gunnery Sgt. Hartley Gilbert, 37, of Guilford, Maine, who was among the Andrews Air Force Base Marines at Sgt. Pippin's funeral.

A new law that went into effect this year requires the armed services representatives at military funerals to play taps by either a bugler or a high-quality CD recording.

Sgt. Mills, 29, of Concord, N.C., said he finds the notion of bringing a CD player to a soldier's funeral embarrassing. He once requested to be flown to Indianapolis to perform taps at a funeral for a former Marine and state trooper who was killed in the line of duty.

The ceremony for Sgt. Pippin was held at a funeral home and not in a cemetery, at the family's request.

The soldiers stood at attention in the funeral home parking lot and, moments before taps, six Marines delivered the deafening echo of an 18-shot volley under a 15-foot-high cement awning. That made things especially difficult for Sgt. Mills.

"I couldn't hear a thing. My ears were ringing," he said after the funeral.

But the Pippin family, who requested that a bugler and at least nine other Marines perform the ceremony, had no complaints.

"The Marines were crisp as they usually are honoring a great man and a great dad," said Mr. Pippin's son, Rob Pippin, 40, of Catonsville, Md.

Sgt. Pippin, 76, of Laurel, Md., had received two Purple Hearts for wounds he received at Iwo Jima in World War II and during the Korean War, his brother-in-law said.

Gunnery Sgt. Gary F. Schick, 42, of Boca Raton, Fla., presented Barbara Pippin, Mr. Pippin's wife, with the folded flag and the shells that represent the gun salute.

"[The ceremony] was just wonderful. His wife wanted that so much," said Mr. Pippin's brother-in-law, Dick Olson, of Chevy Chase, Md.

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