Jari Villanueva knows his bugle calls and the one he's intimately familiar with is Taps, inarguably the most frequently played bugle call of them all.
"That's the one call played every evening at U.S. Military bases here and around the world that unites us all as Americans," Jari explains. During his career, Jari has sounded Taps thousands of times and dedicated himself to researching its history becoming the country's foremost expert on the call.
Jari's love of music started at a young age, and along the way, he was exposed to a healthy dose of patriotism and pride starting as a bugler in the Boy Scouts. In 1978, Jari went on to earn his Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Peabody Conservatory at John Hopkins University and his Masters in trumpet performance from Kent State. He is also a graduate of the Air Force Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy.
In addition to playing in the Air Force Band, between 1985 and 2008 Jari served as a bugler at Arlington National Cemetery playing Taps for countless military funerals, and that's how he first learned of Wreaths Across America.
"I remember being in the cemetery years ago and seeing one section, it was the World War I section, near Fort Myer that was all covered in wreaths, and I was wondering who the heck put them there," Jari explains. "I know what struck me about it. It was an old section that no family members would be coming to visit." It's really a great thing to see how it's grown and grown over the years and expanded to other national and state cemeteries across the country."
Jari's passion for the history and performance of Taps resulted from his embarrassment one day of being caught off guard with a simple questioned posed to him by his drum major on the way to a funeral at Arlington.
"He asked me if I knew the origin of Taps and I couldn't answer him," Jari chuckled. "The next day I decided to crack the books and find out what was the true history and the first thing I came across was the myth about the Union Captain and his Confederate son, but, that didn't ring true to me."
That's when he doubled down on his research.
"I went up to the huge military library at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. Then I went to the National Archives and the Library of Congress sifting through articles and talking with people who shared my interest and passion on the topic. Along the way, I met Jack Carter who had the largest collections of bugles in the country."
Jari provides a wealth of information on the origin of Taps for all who visit his website. Some of his research took him back to the historical performance of Taps during President John F. Kennedy's Funeral and a relationship he developed with the U.S. Army trumpeter Keith Clark who hit the wrong note while sounding the call.
"When I was eight years old I remember being glued to the TV and being enthralled by all the pomp and circumstance of the funeral; the caisson, the troops, the bands and of course the trumpeter. I felt such a strong empathy for him that I decided to contact him as part of my research. He was living in Florida and agreed to be interviewed," Jari explains. "He was a phenomenal trumpet player, but he'll always be remembered for that note. He was a gracious, Christian man who was very generous with his time for me. He got thousands of letters following his performance in the Kennedy funeral one of which was encouragement from a nine-year-old boy."
In the late 90's Jari created an exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery featuring bugles and buglers and he had the responsibility of transferring the bugle Keith Clark played from the Smithsonian to Arlington.
Jari's notoriety comes as much from his historical knowledge and performances as a Taps bugler as it does from his music arranging. His arrangement of the song Going Home was featured in a full honors arrival ceremony scene in the movie, Clear and Present Danger.
"That appeared to get a lot of attention because I started getting a lot of requests for it including from President Reagan's family. When he passed away, the Air Force Band got a request for it to be played during his departure ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base. That piece of music is now part of the Presidential State Funeral Music, and it's played in Arlington National Cemetery by all the military bands there, and it's something of which I'm very proud."
When Jari retired from the military, he served for ten years as Director of the Maryland National Guard's Military Funeral Honors Program providing honors for well over thirty-five thousand Maryland veterans.
You can hear more with Jari during the Military Musicians Showcase on Wreaths Across America Radio Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 Am until Noon Eastern.
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.