Honor Guard bugler reflects on Memorial Day

As Americans across the nation prepare their grills and break the jet skis out of storage for the long holiday weekend, many are also preparing to honor those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. Amongst them is trumpeter and bugler Steve Veikley of Minot, who will be performing the rendition of “Taps” at the Memorial Day Program at Rosehill Memorial Park in Minot set to take place on Monday.

“I started playing trumpet when I was 10 years old, and I’ve been a professional musician ever since. I was one of those people where if I can’t do music, you might as well take me out and shoot me,” Veikley said, “Maybe that’s not fit to print.”

Veikley joined the Army in 1968 and was part of the U.S. Army Band. Later in life, he began to play “Taps” at funerals, and was called upon by funeral homes to lend his talents to honor veterans at burials. Around 2005, Veikley was approached by Minot Legion Post 26 member Dean Verstraete who asked him to join the post’s Honor Guard.

“It’s one of the best in North Dakota, if not the best. They’re led by Millo Wallace and Dean. They’ve done a great job with it.” Veikley said, “It’s entirely a volunteer organization. It’s picturesque, competent and very expertly done. It’s a well-kept secret.”

Veikley has served as bugler in the Honor Guard at more than 500 funerals in the intervening years, along with countless events and ceremonies in the Minot community. No matter the weather, rain or shine, Veikley and the rest of the Honor Guard stood and delivered despite freezing temperatures and blistering wind making it difficult to get the first notes out.

“At funerals, people might be crying, or they might not. But if people are ever going to get tears in their eyes, it’s not from the firing or the folding of the flag. It’s from ‘Taps,’ “ Veikley said, “I’m a professional, so I’m trying my best not to get emotionally invested because I might not sound good. I play it slowly, so the notes sink in. I don’t put any doodads in there. I do it how it’s supposed to be done.”

In addition to his involvement with the Legion, Veikley also teaches music at the Academy Arts in downtown Minot and has been a supporter of the Ward County Historical Society. Veikley’s rendition of “Taps” at the program on Monday will be his last in Minot before he moves at the end of June. Though, he says he will be available for any funerals should his services be needed while he’s still in town.

“I’m just one of the guys. We go to people we do not know to give veterans a crisp graveside presence. It can’t just be guys from the neighborhood. It’s good for people to see this and pay a little more attention. There’s more to this than just war stories. These veterans were somebody who did something special. I don’t take it lightly.”


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