As I stand on the front porch, rehearsing the Gettysburg Address (for events planned this Summer), I hear the 21-Gun Salute from the Memorial Service, taking place on “Memorial Bridge,” spanning the river down the street. I think, again, of President Lincoln’s words, “we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain …” That was November 19, 1863. A year earlier, 1862, “Taps” was “born.” We’re going to share with you’re a video featuring the narration of John Wayne, and then a series of unforgettable images. Images that we cannot watch and not be changed. To be reminded of those who “gave their lives that that nation might live.”
Under the video, for those of you who have never seen the actual words to “Taps,” are the words.
For today, and every day, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
TAPS Day is done. Gone the sun. From the lakes From the hills. From the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh. Fading light. Dims the sight. And a star. Gems the sky. Gleaming bright. From afar. Drawing nigh. Falls the night. Thanks and praise. For our days. Neath the sun Neath the stars. Neath the sky. As we go. This we know. God is nigh
We wanted to share this, now seemingly rare video, featuring John Wayne’s narration, with photos, choir, and music, of “America the Beautiful.” I can honestly say that, yes, I have always been a “John Wayne” fan, and, yes, I always will be. I was just recently re-introduced, after too long a time, to a couple of his movies. Honestly … I had forgotten, with time, just how great he was on the screen. Like Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and very few others, as new generations come and go, it is forgotten “just how big they were.”
My Mom and Dad (who is, by the way, a big Gene Autry fan) were fans of John Wayne, as are many in my family. I’ll never forget watching “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” for the first time, with my Mom. I brought the movie over to give to her, as she was a huge fan of westerns. I remember the first time I heard, from John Wayne himself, the term, “Pilgrim.” I had heard show-business impressionists use “Pilgrim” many times, but that was the first time I had seen the original words for myself. I’ll never forget my Mom’s reaction when John Wayne came riding into town … his first appearance in the movie … she mentioned how tall he was in the saddle; the way he carried himself, even on horseback … that had to be John Wayne!
A friend lent me the movie a few weeks ago, and I watched it again. When John Wayne came riding into town that first time … I remember, so clearly, my Mom’s words about his being so tall in the saddle … it seems like just yesterday … By the way, I also loved the “That was my steak, Valance” scene … and, what a great, great actor James Stewart was … Which reminds me that the same friend also lent me “The Shootist,” where Wayne and Stewart were reunited on screen. As great a western as that one was, if you get a chance to see the “extras” that are included with the DVD (I love all of that “behind the scenes” stuff), it is an amazing story of how sick John Wayne was during the filming of what would be his last movie.
One of my favorite children’s books is “Chico the Brave,” written by Dave Horowitz. The story is about a young chicken who is afraid of everything … but, becomes a super-hero. I love to share the story with my students, and they love the story. At the very end of the book, after the story, is a page featuring this quote: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” John Wayne
Anyway … to the video … I can remember, “way back when,” when television stations used to “sign off” for the night (and we only got 3 channels-if we were lucky), they would play this same video of John Wayne and “America, Why I Love Her.” I hadn’t seen the video in years, so, when I came across it, I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!