Monday, March 29, 2010

Every Time

Another District function. As usual, the District honor guard and the District pipe band open the ceremony. The District Honor Guard enters the room first. The four flag bearers, pike, axe and commander - all in class A uniform, adorned with the accouterments that the honor guard wear.

They are followed by the District Pipe Band. with twelve  pipes and seven drums. They follow the honor guard, in two rows. Their kilts are made of custom tartan, designed specifically for them.  All have identical sporrans, ones designed for the District, all have the same ghillies. Their dirks and daggers differ, as to personal taste.

The pipes are in front, followed by the snare drums and finally the bass drum. The bass drummer beats the rhythm, his mallet striking the District symbol imprinted on the skin.

All enter the room, the colors are soon posted and the pledge soon said. It is now time for the honor guard to be seated, their mission has been completed. It is now time for the pipe band to perform their show. The pipe band plays several songs, marching within the confines of the venue. Their precision and uniformity amazes the crowd, as does their skill with the pipes and drums.

Although I enjoy the sound of the bagpipes, a little goes a long way. After a few songs, I am ready to move on and get on to the program. As if the band commander senses my wish, they perform their last song. It is Amazing Grace, and as they perform it, pictures of our fallen flash upon the large screen over the stage.

My goddam eyes well up like a sniveling little bitch. It pisses me off, but there is nothing I can do about it. I try to dab the corners of my eyes so no one will notice, I am likely successful, but who knows. A friend of mine was honored at this ceremony, the mournful sound of the pipes and his image on the screen made this time worse than usual.

You see, Amazing Grace gives a wretch like me hope, the pipe band gives me sorrow when I hear them play it. The dichotomy of it all gets to me.

Every Time.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Danny Boy does it for me.

    In the New Yorker last week there was a cartoon of a bagpipe band. In the background, in the crowd, comes the request: "Freebird!"

  2. Dear Captain Schmoe,

    This is what gospel music does to me, the wretch and the hope, the sorrow too.

    Mostly I am writing to say I am sorry for your loss. These tears are never wasted.

    Sincerely yours,
    Ann T.

  3. I cry when the National Anthem is played. I used to do the same thing...hold it back, quickly wipe an errant tear. No longer. I let the tears fall now. I dont care who sees.

    And just an fyi, to see a man cry, especially over something such as this is not seen as weakness Capt. Not at all.

  4. You writing as been spot on recently! Loving it!

  5. Pipes affect me. Amazing Grace affects me. Amazing Grace played on pipes always floors me. No shame, Capt. We know how you feel.

  6. I think anyone in the fire or police department will get choked up when amazing grace is played by the corps. I had to leave an opening ceramony just because of that. Flashing the police narcotic officers who gave their lives in Texas. It is a moving experiance......

  7. The only time I ever hear Amazing Grace played by the pipes is at the funeral of one of my brothers or sisters in blue or my brothers or sisters on the Fire side. Even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes, it is such a haunting, yet fitting, tribute. As soon as those first notes start, you feel your heart clench in your chest. Some of us hear it sparingly, some hear it all too much. Nothing would make me happier than to never HAVE to hear it again. Love your crew and your team, and stay safe!