"Taps." That's what he was thinking of. He'd only heard it once, and that was when his Grandpa Owen Parker, a member of the U.S. Marines during the Cold War, was shot in Beirut, Lebanon before the Marines could pull out. Zach never knew if he was intentionally shot or not; nonetheless, the sound of the sad trumpet still rung in his ears from that day—now more so than it ever used to.
He was only four when his grandpa died, so there wasn't much memory for him there, but he was told again and again that his grandfather would have been highly proud of him. Now he knew it to be true. The ringing of the trumpet, it wasn't so sad anymore for him. It symbolized the fact that a man who'd done something proud and bold and true had died and that we mustn't forget him.
Day is done. Gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
The words were so simple, but the meaning so…so true. The lyrics described this picture-perfect setting, of the sun setting upon the night from everything, and peacefully plunging into darkness with the delight that light will be back. But this song was played at funerals—at those funerals of the veterans and the non-survivors. That's not peaceful. Death is cruel, isn't it? It took away loved ones, and even the hated ones, but it never gave back did it?
Yet still the trumpet rings.
Originally, Zach knew from somewhere in the back of his mind, the song "Taps" signified a soldier's day done, which would explain the lyrics. It stood for the fact that the soldiers no longer had to sacrifice themselves for their families and for their countries. Maybe that's why it was played at funerals.
Zach hoped that, aside from his head, he'd never have to hear "Taps" again for a sad purpose. He didn't want to hear it for the death of another veteran, for the announcement of the brave, or for the sacrifice of the free. Yet, which one was he? He was most definitely not a veteran, and in most senses he wasn't even close to being brave.
But what is free? Zach was always told that things came with a price, and that price may not have always been a silver dime, but it was there. He'd clearly been constricted most of his life—a life that he hardly controlled—so was he free? What choices did he ever make for someone else?
The answer was immediate: Jac.
So then his price would have to be the sacrifice. And then maybe one day "Taps" will play for him—for his purpose.
What was he thinking? There were so many things he didn't know. "Taps" was clearly meant for the end of a soldier's duty and the end of his life. He thought of his grandfather again. Going to war must've been scary, but ultimately the brave thing was to face it, because fixing war was the right thing to do.
Fading night, falling light, trumpet call, as the sun sinks in fright, sleep in peace, comrades dear; God is near.
Death. Maybe it wasn't Death that was cruel; rather, Life was. It's like the sea; it's the most peaceful thing on earth and the same time the most destructive. "Taps" is the transition; or, at least it describes it. Rest in peace, my comrades dear. Soon I will be taking the paths you have walked.
How would Jac react? She'd be devastated, just as he might've been when Grandpa Owen died. But at least he was able to meet her for a short period of time.
Now that was a funny thing. Time itself is everlasting, but it seems that it's also very fleeting. That's what Zach had also always been told. So what does time have to do with "Taps?" he wondered randomly.
Of course, "Taps" described the day's course—or, well the end of it, but it implies the events during the day. It also signifies how much time a soldier has, his death, and the remembrance of what he's done with his life.
Zach had two weeks, which in all honesty wasn't enough time. Maybe "Taps" will play at the end of his two weeks, or maybe "Taps"' counter melody would instead. So was that "America?" Or was it "My Country, 'Tis of Thee?"
Actually, it was probably the national anthem. And if it was, then why isn't the "Star-Spangled Banner" played at the crack of dawn, or when a child's born?
Zach laughed, but he knew it was only a distraction for the end of the two weeks. He'd deliberately agreed to it, so in a way he gave up his freedom, if that's what he could call it. But was it the right thing to do or not?
Again, more questions that had no answers.
So this land was supposedly the "land of the free, and the home of the brave," but the land wasn't free, and the brave were never home. So why does "Taps" play and why do men sacrifice themselves for others' freedom when it simply cannot exist? The soldiers, are they the price of our freedom? The brave, are they the bane of life? Surely neither were true with Zach. Lives never equate to freedom, and "bane" didn't exactly fit "the brave" who unfairly died.
So "Taps" is just a memorial song to cover the unfairness of the deaths of soldiers. It symbolizes that their duty is done, and for that, they never see the light of day again.
Zach thought of his Grandpa Owen again, and of the sad trumpet, and how the brave should stop dying. There are so few of them in the world. Instead, he then thought how history repeats itself, and he knew he was going to end up dead like Grandpa Owen.
Auld lang syne never ceased. That's why "Taps" has played, and will always play.