Ruffles and flourishes for the ‘Greatest Generation’

December 21, 2018 GMT

Through the miracle of television, I witnessed — no, gloried in — our nation’s tribute to a fallen hero, President George Herbert Walker Bush. Yes, he was all the things we heard of him. Yet I was overwhelmed by the history, the music, the magnificence of our young nation’s response to a hero’s ultimate journey.

Some similarities occur in my thoughts about the late president and my brother. They are allied in “the Greatest Generation.”

Shortly after the horrific bombing of Pearl Harbor, my brother, Bob Bartlett, joined the Marines. Our parents had to sign permission for his enlistment as he was two months away from his 17th birthday. He would narrowly escape death when a missile tore through the bottom of the Scout Bomber Dauntless as he manned his machine gun in the tail section.


I was 11 and wept for him, and his friends that I had known and loved who also seized the need to defend our country. Innocently I baked cookies and mailed them to the vast Pacific Ocean. I was stunned to see his coffee cup and saucer rattle in his hands when he had a brief visit home. Praise God, they all came home.

Through the GI Bill, a godsend for many, especially for a young man who still had his high school diploma to earn and a wartime bride and child to care for. The boy, often barefoot, who left an unproductive farm in Texas had become a man, as George Bush said, “through the terrifying experience of war.” Bob became a noted veterinarian and eventually program director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In his 80s, he had a mobile clinic where he served the community, often free of charge.

Our country honors its warriors. I am proud, so proud, that Bob has a plaque in the Memorial Courtyard at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg.

I digress. As I watched the ongoing ceremony, the words “ruffles and flourishes” peeked into my thoughts. I had a dim understanding of the words. “Ruffles and flourishes.” Murmured the words to my daughter who said, “I’ve never heard of that.” Ruffles, drums, and flourishes, bugles, preceding “Hail To The Chief.” Four ruffles and flourishes are the highest honor.

Many instances of being part of a choir have given me some knowledge of the vast body of music. From childhood singing of “My Blue Heaven” to “The Magnificat” in a combined choir of Highland Park Presbyterian Church and Southern Methodist United Church for broadcast worldwide, I have a smattering of musicality. I contemplate ruffles and flourishes — the drums, the bugles slowly build to the burgeoning triumph of the reveal of the chief.

Ruffles and flourishes. Hmm. It is soft yet strong. It projects a meaningful note to what will come. It is as if all the muted voices of heroes past are yearning to be heard, with one immense sigh. The nation, the powers that be, have done their weeping. The glorious voices singing those beautiful notes have thrilled and soothed us.

I hear those collective sighs.

Carolyn B. Taylor lives in Canyon Lake.