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Wednesday, May 21, 2008 09:37 pm

Bugle boys

For Bill Bullard and his two grandsons, honoring vets has become a family tradition

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Bill Bullard is flanked by his grandsons, Joshua and Jacob.
PHOTO BY R.L. NAVE

Morrisonville is the kind of Midwestern town where a basketball goal stands in every driveway, an American flag adorns every porch, and, residents joke, people can leave the keys in their cars just in case a neighbor needs to borrow one. The Christian County village of 1,068 also boasts three living recipients of the Silver Star. So Memorial Day is kind of a big deal here, and for one Morrisonville family in particular. The Bullard boys, as they’re known locally, have played a special, and increasingly rare, part in paying tribute the town’s soldiers for a number of years.
Bill Bullard, 81, and a World War II Navy veteran, has participated in military funerals as a chaplain for the American Legion for more than 50 years. Five years ago his grandson Jacob volunteered at the age of 14 to perform “Taps” at the ceremonies. Two years later Jacob’s younger brother, Joshua, joined to play the echo.
A standard military funeral includes an honor-guard detail and a flag-folding ceremony followed by the playing of “Taps.” However, live buglers are hard to come by these days and echoes even more so. Jacob, 19, and Joshua, 17, use trumpets, the quality of which, they say, is superior to that of bugles. When a bugler is unavailable, a recording of “Taps“ may be substituted. (The boys’ mother and grandmother agree that recordings don’t sound nearly as good as the real thing.) Bill, who sits on the village and county Farm Bureau boards, says Memorial Day has taken on greater significance in this time of war. He believes — and Joshua and Jacob agree — that members of his grandsons’ generation are “hungry” for patriotism. “The biggest insult you can make is to say, ‘You’re not a patriotic individual.’ That really hits ’em in the heart,” Bill says. Jacob, who’s studying engineering at Lincoln Land Community College, says that playing his trumpet at funerals has given him a personal perspective on the meaning of patriotism, something that most people his age never have an opportunity to experience.  “We see people who actually served, more than other people who don’t go to Memorial Day things,” he says. As a Cubmaster, the young men’s father, Chuck Bullard, recruited his sons and their fellow Scouts to place a flag on the grave of every veteran in Morrisonville Cemetery each Memorial Day. His wife, Linda, later created a database to make finding the markers easier, and Dorothy, his mother, prepared breakfast for the group.
Both Jacob and Joshua, who is now a junior in high school, went on to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout before entering the ninth grade. They estimate that they now attend close to 50 funerals a year and also perform during events held on patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Flag Day. Chuck beams whenever he speaks of what his father and children are doing for their community and the country. “These guys saw the calling,” he says. “It wasn’t that they were necessarily asked. They wanted to do it. They saw what was needed.”  

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com.
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