“Honoring Others Lives Has Helped Me To Find Value In My Own Life.”

Memorial Day Reflection by: Dennis Kerr,
Naropa Alumnx and Veteran

Taps saved my life. I joined the US Army in 2002 from a lack of motivational direction for my life. To put it simply, I did not enjoy living, except for my spiritual interests. The Army had annual suicide briefings which would cause anxiety for me each time for the initial few years of my 10 years of service. What caused the anxiety to gradually diminish was attending memorials and funerals.

Picture: Fort Logan National Cemetery.
Audio: TAPS, performed and recorded by Dennis Kerr,
December 2013, Naropa Recording Studio 1 class

I remember attending my first funeral as a bugler in Killeen, Texas, mixed with how my inner thought process evolved from attending. The rifle team and I would show up a couple of hours or so before so the team could rehearse (we buglers did not rehearse Taps in public, only played a note or two which kept Taps sacred).

What I began to do was reflect on my own life during those hours before honoring the departed loved one. I did not have an agenda for contemplation, just allowed what was to show up in my thought process for those particular moments.

What inspired my thought process was hearing the highlights of the life being honored (depending upon if I sat in the service or waited at the site for family/friends to show up after). No matter if it was positive or challenging, people spoke with such endearment.

After about the initial year or so of my time honoring departed loved ones, (attended about 500 during my total time in service, other buglers have been to thousands) I made it a point to save a program from each service I attended, if possible, and not outside of the natural rhythm of the ceremony.

Once the time began for military honors, I would concentrate more on deepening my breath, both for calmness and to prepare to play the trumpet. Once the rifle team came to a salute after firing three volleys, I would take a deep breath or two, close my eyes, and play the 24 notes for the departed loved one. I pictured the soul being there amongst the crowd in spirit, in which I would close my eyes.

Every 24 notes for me symbolizes the 24 hours of the day. Similar to playing Taps, I aim to keep in mind full breathing and concentration for each of the 24 hours. Much easier done with Taps than with each 24 hours, though I feel calmer when I am able to have alignment with breath and concentration for even a small portion of the 24 hours of the day.

I have what I call a Memorial Day Reflection Kit. In the kit are programs saved from various memorials and funerals over the years, and other souvenirs related to honoring a day and a life. Since I am no longer in the US Army, I look forward to each Memorial Day as it helps to bring stillness and deeper reflections to my life. Honoring others lives has helped me to find value in my own life.

A deep bow,



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Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

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