Edward Garcia, a Vietnam veteran and lifetime member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 4265, can't remember how many times he's played the eloquent and haunting bugle call that is taps.
The melody, played at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services, is easily the most recognized of all military calls.
"Too many times," said Garcia, who added another rendition to his growing list Friday afternoon. "Too many times in the last couple of years."
Garcia performs taps during funeral services for fallen veterans or VFW members. The Marine Corps veteran said performing the song is an emotional, yet important part of paying respect.
"It gets pretty hard ... losing one of our members," Garcia said. But, "it's a sign of respect for the guys who've done all the fighting."
His performance Friday came on the heels of a 21-gun salute at the Moffat County Courthouse during the VFW's ceremony to honor those fighting men and women who are missing in action (MIA) or prisoners of war (POW). MIAs and POWs were honored across the country Friday.
The VFW honored those missing soldiers by flying the stark black and white flag of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. On Friday, the flag flew over the White House, U.S. Capitol, and the departments of state and defense.
It flies over the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs every day.
Rain and clouds broke up just long enough for a dozen or so residents to attend the service Friday. They heard VFW commander Bud Nelson, standing before the granite tablet in front of the courthouse honoring all those who served in the armed forces, deliver a speech in recognizing the plight of POWs and MIAs.
He quoted the words of Winston Churchill when speaking of those brave souls away from their loved ones.
"Courage is the first of human qualities," said Nelson ,reciting Churchill's words, "because it is the quality which guarantees all others.
"It is courage that moves our veterans to serve in harm's way for a cause much greater than their individual wants and fears," Nelson added. "It is courage that guides them on the field of battle. It is courage that enables them to endure the mistreatment and isolation of incarceration by the enemy and it is courage that keeps their families strong and supportive in their absence, no matter how long.
"It is that special courage we honor today."
During his prayer, post chaplain Johnny Garcia appealed to God to protect POWs and MIAs and to someday deliver them home to their loved ones.
Veterans and residents gathered at the courthouse to "honor the veterans and glorify God under this nation and this flag."
According to Veterans Affairs, there are more than 78,000 veterans missing from World War II, 81,000 from the Korean War and 1,798 Vietnam veterans left unaccounted for.
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We write no last chapters. We close no books. We put away no final memories." -- Excerpt taken from President Ronald Reagan's 1985 speech to families of soldiers missing in action.