Region 8 Air Force veteran musician recalls his service life

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - An ASU music professor spent his military service in an Air Force band in Washington D.C.

Dr. Chris Wilson, now a Professor of Trumpet at ASU is a former Air Force Musician. Stationed with the premier Air Force Band he took full advantage of the military to prepare himself for his current position.

"I went to school on the G. I. Bill and got a doctorate right there in D.C. at Catholic University of America. I developed my work ethic, promoted the camaraderie, and learned how to work with lot's of different people."

All the services station their "flagship" bands in D.C. and Wilson says they keep quite busy.

"Any time a foreign dignitary would come to Washington D.C. one of the bands, we would rotate between the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Bands, would play. White House Rose Garden tours, you name it. Christmas tree lightings, we were there."

Besides the White House and other locations the band was on the road with community relation tours in country and out. Wilson told me he played once for the Queen of England and the Emperor of Japan.

Another important part of his duties included playing at Arlington National Cemetery. It being Veterans' Day. It was his role at Arlington that I was most curious about. I, like many others, I assumed that the Army performed all funeral duties.

Wilson, "In which ever service they belonged to. When that Veteran died obviously members from the Air Force Band or Marine Band depending on the veteran would serve."

Wilson said he played for numerous Army Air Corp veterans funeral services. And he says they would play no matter what the weather.

Depending on the type of funeral it could be an entire band playing hymns or just a trumpeter playing taps. Wilson told me he had played the call over 500 times at Arlington. The playing of "Taps" he said, is the pivotal moment for a military funeral.

"I would look at the family and always be touched, specifically when "Taps" is sounded all the way across Arlington Cemetery."

Wilson also played for former Presidents Ronald Regan and Gerald Fords' funerals.

Wilson only stayed in for 8 years, not a career Airman but simply a man who did his duty like many others.

Wilson, "The veteran of today is very similar to veterans of past war times. I was a musician and got to serve and it was just an honor to do so."

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