Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
By Margie Wuebker
Afghan war soldier salutes county veterans with Taps
COLDWATER - Adam Liette raises his trumpet and the sound of Taps wafts across the park during Memorial Day services Monday morning.
The 27-year-old soldier, fresh from a one-year deployment in Afghanistan, is no stranger to such ceremonies - the instrument has taken him to major military bases, faraway outposts and flag-decked cemeteries.
Liette, the son of Coldwater residents Terry and Cindy Liette, is one of 40 musicians stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., a U.S. Army base home to 50,000 military personnel.
"People ask about my job in the Army and they look surprised when I tell them I play the trumpet," he said.
Liette, a 2001 Coldwater High School graduate, enlisted in June 2006 upon completion of a music education degree at Capital University in Columbus. Ten months of training followed at Fort Jackson, S.C., and the Armed Forces School of Music at Norfolk, Va.
As a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, his duties include performing with the division band and providing a final salute for fallen comrades. Occasionally, special assignments come along such as playing during pre-race ceremonies at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.
The assignment to play Taps at military funerals is not an easy one, Liette said. The majority of men and women are laid to rest at home, meaning trips to various states. Liette arrives the day before a funeral and departs the day after.
"Every time is hard but not as hard as graveside rites with a grieving widow and children," he said. "You have to block out the scene before you play and do the best you can remembering this soldier made the ultimate sacrifice."
During his recent assignment in Afghanistan, he accompanied the division chaplain on trips to forward operating bases (FOBs) to give one final good-bye to fallen brothers.
He and three fellow musicians also formed the country band, the Mighty Mighty Bragg Tones, and performed at various bases in Afghanistan. The 100 to 150 soldiers at each location greeted the band warmly as they arrived by helicopter.
"We were a little bit of home for a couple days before our ride returned," he said. "They showed us great hospitality and we didn't want for anything."
Liette describes the Afghanistan countryside as desolate and mountainous, similar to the Badlands in the states. The enemy lurks in the mountains ready to attack at any time, so the environment is one of heightened security, he said.
Another part of his mission involved training members of the Afghan National Army Band outside Kabul. The musicians, whom Liette compares to sixth-grade band students, came by bus for the instructions. One of the songs they taught was The Star Spangled Banner.
"Music has its own language and the interpreters had trouble translating the terms," he said. "We had to find a new way to teach old concepts. Fortunately, the Afghans are good at imitating."
Liette and his wife, the former Tracy Klenke of Carthagena, and their two sons, 21-month-old Jay and 7-month-old Benjamin, came home for the Memorial Day weekend. They return to Fort Bragg today.
"I'm not finished with the military at this point. I have three years left on my current contract," Liette said. "What lays ahead is uncertain at this point, but music will remain part of my life in some shape or form."
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