By Staff Sgt. Phil Stehly
Veteran’s Day is just around the corner. This is the time of year I reflect on what it means to serve. Last year I wrote a series of blogs about my perspective playing our Veteran’s Day concert. This year I’d like to write about a funeral the West Point Band recently supported.
As a soldier musician, performing for funerals is one of the most—if not the most— meaningful and important things I do. This past May, the West Point Band provided musical support for the funeral of Abby Mayer. Abby was a horn player in the band. His stint at West Point was one of many during a prolific career. In addition to the West Point Band, Abby was a member of the National Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Indianapolis Symphony. Quite a resume! He eventually settled back in New York, maintaining an active and successful career as a free lance musician.
In talking to some of my colleagues who knew Abby well, I kept hearing the same things: He was a true gentlemen and one of the nicest folks you’d meet. He was also generous—always willing to play his horn for any occasion, no matter how big or small. And he never lost touch with his roots at West Point, as he remained active in the area with performances and clinics while staying in touch with folks in the band.
When word of Abby’s passing came, several members of the West Point Band volunteered to play for the funeral. It’s something we do for all of our band alumni should they choose to be buried at West Point. Taking care of each other is such an important part of the Army, and I can’t think of a better way we in the West Point Band take care of our own.
Thanks for your service, Abby Mayer. And thank you to all of our veterans. I always seek out ways I serve on my trombone. I can think of no greater honor than playing the funerals of our fallen heroes.