Gary Marquardt didn’t start playing the trumpet until he was 66 years old. Now, the Minnesota retiree plays every day as a way to honor America’s military veterans.
Marquardt started playing the trumpet after attending a military funeral, where he heard taps played on a recording instead of live.
It bothered him that nobody was available or willing to play the honorable melody for the veterans in his community, and decided to do something about it.
“It just seemed that, after what they had given, that wasn’t much to ask,” Marquardt told KARE11.
Marquardt walked into a music store, bought a bugle, and began playing those first notes — though he wasn’t exactly good from the start.
“It was awful,” Marquardt’s wife Joanie Marquardt said of her husband’s beginner days. “Seemed like every 15 minutes, it was all the time.”
Marquardt persevered and taught himself how to play taps, wanting to be proficient enough to do the tune justice.
“We were all hoping he would get better,” Joanie said. “And then he did.”
Three years later, Marquardt is playing nearly every day at graves in military cemeteries, at military funerals and through the organization “Bugles Across America.” He volunteers to play at military funerals approximately 100 times a year.
When he plays, Marquardt is reminded of the Vietnam war that he did not fight in, after a bleeding ulcer deemed him unfit for service.
At the time he would have been deployed, Marquardt had been surrounded by men going into the military, including his father who served in WWII. Many of his high school friends died in Vietnam, leaving Marquardt with mixed feelings about his own scenario.
“I think ashamed is the word,” he said. “I was ashamed I was happy I didn’t have to go.”
Now, Marquardt is able to serve in his own way, bringing honor and tribute to as many veterans as he can. He is about to turn 70, and plans to keep on playing.
“I don’t play perfect every time — I really try to,” Marquardt said, “but I’m there representing all of us and it comes from the heart.”
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