Bugler proud to offer vets final salute
Hart has played taps for nearly 500 services
Les W. Hart is nearing a somber milestone in his volunteerism with the Blair County Honor Guard — he’s played taps on his trumpet for nearly 500 veterans’ funerals.
Hart, 80, started playing trumpet in fourth grade and has no plans to stop. He’s played in a variety of military-related positions, including with the Air Force Band West out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, as well as in the Hollidaysburg Community Band and the Penn State Alumni Blue Band.
“Les is a very dedicated musician,” said Jack Sears of Duncansville. Sears, who has known Hart for several decades, said Hart is dependable, as he is “the first one to show up and the last one to leave.”
Sears served as director of the Hollidaysburg Community Band for 18 years.
“(Hart) plays in the trumpet section and is always faithful,” Sears said. “He’s also played in the King’s Brass, a special ensemble that played in area churches for special services. He loves music. He is a dedicated musician.”
Hart’s love of music is what turns him into a patron at other musical performances in the community.
But it is playing those 24 notes in taps, and providing a final salute to a military service member, that he is most proud of.
Fellow musician Scott Sheehan said Hart is a prime example of how music can be pursued for one’s entire life.
“He’s an example of how playing music doesn’t end with high school. He’s 80 and still playing. He truly enjoys playing trumpet and making music,” Sheehan said, noting he’s known Hart for about 20 years from when Sheehan taught at Bald Eagle High School. Sheehan also plays trumpet.
“I’ve always been impressed with how dedicated Les is,” Sheehan said. “He is involved in music in Blair and Centre counties. He loves music and he loves community — not just his hometown but many communities.”
In addition to volunteering in the Blair County Honor Guard, Hart estimates he’s played in an additional 200 military services when he was stationed at various bases across the United States.
He strongly laments that, in many services, an electronic bugle salute has replaced a live version.
“There is something about hearing a live trumpet. People hear a real trumpet playing those notes and the tears flow,” he said.
Hart is teaching others to play to preserve the live presentation, he said. While not difficult from a musical performance perspective, the solemnity of the occasion does add weight to the performance.
“We, the Blair County Veterans Honor Guard, are extremely blessed to have him as our Bugler,” the organization said of Hart in a social media post. “This guy is liked by everyone in the guard. He is a true inspiration to us younger generations.”
Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.
The Hart file
Name: Les W. Hart
Residence: Duncansville; born in Great Neck, N.Y.
Age: 80, senior master sergeant
Family members: Wife, Linda (Knox) Hart and many nieces and nephews
Employment: Retired, personnel director and safety director for Falconer Glass Fabricator in Lewistown, in 1991
Military service: Retired as a senior master sergeant in 1985, with active service in various military branches include the Air Force, Air Force Reserves and the National Guard, in the U.S. Air Force, 1992
Honors/awards: More than a dozen military honors, including two commendation medals for being an active duty recruiter for Virginia Air National Guard, Red Horse Squadron in Virginia Beach
Community service: Joined the Blair County Honor Guard in 2012, member of The Hollidaysburg Community Band; Penn State Alumni Blue Band; retired from the Civil Air Patrol, with 17 years of service.