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Here is the second installment of our lead-up to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s funeral on Thursday. This post was written by the band’s drum major, Sgt. Major Christopher Jones. In it, he gives significant insight into all of the music that will be performed at the funeral, and exactly why we perform this music.

Sgt. Major Jones salutes during a review.

Sgt. Major Jones salutes during a review.

The United States Military Academy Band, “West Point Band,” will perform the full military funeral honoring Gen. (ret.) H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. this Thursday, February 28, 2013. Gen. Schwarzkopf, a U.S. Military Academy alumnus from the Class of 1956, is certainly one of West Point’s most distinguished graduates in modern times. While serving as Commander of U.S. Central Command, he was commander of coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991). He retired from the U.S. Army in August of 1991 and since became known for his charity and community service. Gen. Schwarzkopf passed away on December 27th, 2012.

It is hard to explain to anyone the significance of the title West Point graduate and the tradition behind that title. West Point graduates are known to belong to the “Long Gray Line.” This reference comes from the Continental high collar gray uniforms cadets continue to wear today. Upon graduation, cadets become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. Volumes have been written on the traditions and leaders of West Point. Among West Point traditions are the deeply rooted songs of the academy. The West Point Band will perform a number of these songs at Gen. Schwarzkopf’s funeral, and this is a brief description of how these West Point tunes honor graduates at full military funerals here at the academy.




Four Ruffles and Flourishes
The General’s March
Drum roll
Trio of The Official West Point March (slow)


God of Our Fathers
Drum Cadence
America, the Beautiful
Drum Cadence
Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Drum Cadence

Four Ruffles and Flourishes
The General’s March
Drum Roll
Army Blue

Chaplain’s Prayers
Cannon Salute
Rifle Volleys

West Point Alma Mater


The number of Ruffles and Flourishes equals the number of stars on 4-Star General rank. This call starts the honors sequence and flows right into The General’s March. During Schwarzkopf’s tenure in the U.S. Army as a general, this bugle call and march welcomed him to official ceremonies. During this music, everyone in uniform renders a hand salute. When the drum roll occurs, movement of the body and flag proceed from the chapel to the hearse. At this time, the band will perform the trio strain of The Official West Point March.

The Official West Point March was composed in 1927 by West Point Bandmaster 1st Lt. Philip Egner. The march in its entirety weaves ten traditional West Point songs into its score. The slow Trio strain performed at this funeral is known by graduates as “The Thumper.” It is this march that Cadet Schwarzkopf marched to numerous times on full dress parades, Army football games, and graduation week ceremonies.

Once the body is placed in the hearse, the band will lead a processional from the chapel to the cemetery. The first song on the processional is God of Our Fathers. It opens with a trumpet fanfare and continues with the hymn. It is significant that this hymn is performed every year during the Memorial Day ceremony at West Point. A drum cadence will move the band, cadet company, colors, honor guard, hearse, chaplain, and distinguished guests to the cemetery. Also included in the processional are America the Beautiful and Hymn to the Fallen (from the movie Saving Private Ryan). Hymn to the Fallen, by John Williams, has become a new favorite to honor those who have served.

By the time the band makes it through these songs, the procession will be nearing the West Point cemetery. Each unit will take its position: the band, cadet company, honor guard, colors, hearse with officer-in- charge and chaplain. Once the family is at the graveside, the honors sequence starts again. The band will perform Four Ruffles and Flourishes, The General’s March, drum roll, and Army Blue. Again, those in uniform will render a hand salute during honors and the body will move to the graveside during Army Blue.

Army Blue is one of the most important West Point songs next to the Alma Mater, The Corps, and Benny Havens, Oh. The melody from Army Blue comes from the Civil War song, Aura Lee written in 1861. West Point graduate from the Class of 1865, George T. Olmstead, penned the academy’s version of this song about the changeover of cadets moving from the cadet gray uniform to the Army blue uniform. It is a song about West Point’s Graduation Day, the most important day of every cadet’s career. Army Blue was first performed as a graduation song in 1865 and has been performed ever since during graduation week. At the graduation parade, the senior cadets march from the U.S. Corps of Cadets to the reviewing line, a significant first motion away from West Point. It is during this movement, the band plays Army Blue. It is also important to point out that both Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and his father Maj. Gen. Herbert Schwarzkopf, Sr. (Class of 1917) knew and marched to this song during their graduation from West Point. The first stanza and chorus to Army Blue are as follows:

We’ve not much here longer to stay,
For in a month or two,
We’ll bid farewell to “Cadet Gray,”
and don the “Army Blue.”

Army Blue, Army Blue,
Hurrah for the Army Blue,
We’ll bid farewell to “Cadet Gray,”
And don the “Army Blue.”

One tiny bit of trivia: the Aura Lee melody used in Army Blue is the same melody that Elvis Presley used in the song, Love Me Tender.

Once Gen. Schwarzkopf’s body makes it to the graveside, the band will complete Army Blue, and the graveside service starts with chaplain’s prayers. Chaplain (Col.) Barbara Sherer will lead this ceremony. Upon completion of these prayers, units will present arms and 17 cannon volleys will honor the general. After order arms, the chaplain will give a benediction, and the final hand salute will occur with the firing of three volleys by the honor guard and Taps, sounded by West Point Bandsman Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Uhl. For more information on how this bugle call is revered by those who sound it, watch this video: “Taps | The Stories Behind the Sound”.

The bugle call, Taps, holds its own heavy traditional background and connection to West Point. Just across the graveyard from Gen. Schwarzkopf’s plot is that of Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, known as the composer of Taps. This bugle call is approaching its 151st anniversary this year and honors all those who have served their country.  In December 2012, Congress designated Taps as the National Song of Remembrance.

Once Taps is sounded, units will move to order arms. The honor guard will fold the American flag. During the folding of colors, the band will perform one last song in honor of Gen. Schwarzkopf, the West Point Alma Mater.

The melody of West Point’s Alma Mater is from the 1828 song How Can I Leave Thee. Cadet Paul Sorg Reinecke, Class of 1911, wrote the words to this Alma Mater during his second year at West Point. In 1912, one year after Reinecke’s graduation, the song was first sung at graduation and became the most beloved of all West Point songs. The Alma Mater is sung at all important West Point events to include the conclusion of every Army football game and West Point graduation. As this song closes these important events, it also closes the funeral ceremony.

ALMA MATER (first stanza)

Hail Alma Mater dear,
To us be ever near.
Help us thy motto bear
Through all the years.
Let Duty be well performed.
Honor be e’er untarned.
Country be ever armed.
West Point, by thee.

As the military police honor guard carefully folds the colors, the Alma Mater accompanies. The band completes the Alma Mater just prior to the colors being presented to the next of kin, Mrs. Schwarzkopf.  The Academy’s current Superintendent, Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon, Jr. will present the colors to Mrs. Schwarzkopf. This presentation concludes the full military funeral of Gen. (ret.) H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., USMA Class of 1956.

On behalf of the men and women of the West Point Band, we offer our deepest condolences to family and friends of Gen. Schwarzkopf. It is our honor to perform the music of this ceremony as well as support the U.S. Military Academy and citizens of the United States of America.

Words by Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Jones
U.S. Military Academy Band Drum Major