Police Officer Plays her Trumpet in Honor of the Fallen

May 26, 2017

 

by David S. Morin

During fifth grade year in Dracut, Mass., Allison Cummings attended a demonstration of musical instruments for the school band.  One of those instruments played that day was the trumpet and she fell in love with it.  After she began playing, Allison was drawn to a particular melody played at military and public service funerals and memorial services.  That song is sometimes known as “Butterfield’s Lullaby” or by the first line of the lyric “Day is Done” with the most well-known name of “Taps.”

“The trumpet was fun to play, didn’t take a lot of practice, and the band was something to play in and be part of,” stated Allison, now a Hudson police officer.  The song “Taps” intrigued her the most.  Played on the trumpet, “Taps” is completed in less than one minute, yet is a very hard musical piece to master.  It is played in up and down octaves with movements of the mouth controlling the tune, making it easy to crack a note.  Cold weather makes the tune even more difficult as the bugler’s lips freeze to the metal of the trumpet.

Her first public playing of the song took place at a sixth grade assembly, and she continued to play throughout high school at many of the Town of Dracut’s events.  Since that time, she has played at military services/funerals and police officers’ funerals across New Hampshire.  She has also participated in many events in Hudson, like the Hudson 9/11 Memorial Service held each year.  Playing at funerals affects her emotionally and makes her nervous, as she is there to honor the fallen and the family.

She first played in Hudson after Police Sergeant Mike Smith asked if she could perform “Taps.”  Playing in Hudson would not be easy as she thought.  Sergeant Smith lined up the other officers of the shift behind the police station and brought her out for her audition.  There behind the police station she played the melody, which won much approval by her fellow officers.  Her first assignment was to play “Taps” at a ceremony at the Blodgett Cemetery on Pelham Road in honor of a revolutionary soldier buried there.

Since completing her first rendition of “Taps” the Hudson Police Department has been very supportive of her when she is called upon to play.  She is only one of two New Hampshire officers who can perform the song according to military standards and requirements.

Allison volunteers each year to play at the Annual New Hampshire Fallen Police Officers Memorial Service and is part of the 100 Nights of Remembrance.  The 100 Nights of Remembrance takes place at the military cemetery in Boscawen.  In order to play at the cemetery, a bugler must meet the military standard of playing “Taps.”  Once a month she travels to the cemetery arriving at least one hour early to prepare herself to honor those being buried and their family members as well as many others who come to hear the buglers.

She also is a longtime member of the American Legion Post 48 Band and serves as the post’s bugler.

Most kids that are in a school band think about playing in a rock group, Carnegie Hall or at some other major musical event, but Allison’s dream was to play at the Arlington National Cemetery.  A few years ago, she received a phone call from an official at Buglers Across America asking her to audition to play at Arlington.  Her audition was completed over the phone, and she was later notified that she had been chosen to travel to Washington, D.C., and play at the cemetery.

On the day before she was scheduled to play at Arlington, she played at the New Hampshire Police Memorial Service in Concord, leaving immediately after the event was completed for Washington, D.C.  The trip took a total of 12 hours; four hours alone just to cross over the George Washington Bridge in New York City.  Allison and her mother arrived at their hotel at 3 a.m. and caught a few hours of sleep before her performance at Arlington.  This was the first time anyone but a military service member had played “Taps” at the service.

She was assigned to the section of the cemetery where military personnel from the Iraq and Afghanistan were interred.  She was assigned to the specific grave of Army Chief Warrant Officer Matt Lourey.  After she finished playing, a woman standing in the back came up to Allison and told her that she was here visiting her son and did not know the buglers would be there.  The woman went on to say she was happy they were there and that it was so nice to hear them.  For one hour the families talked with the buglers about their kids buried in the same row a few stones away.  The day at Arlington was an incredible honor for Allison and a bright spot in her career.

“I would gladly make the 12-hour ride in a heartbeat to play my trumpet in Arlington for less than a minute again in order to honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedom,” she said.

Allison traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 10-mile TAPS Run after her sister in law asked her to run with her in the race.  The group she ran with was Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.  TAPS provides services for the families of service members killed in action or as a result of their service.

Allison accepted the invitation and ran in memory of Army Chief Warrant Officer Matt Lourey.  Running in memory of Matt, she was asked if she would like to have family notified and Allison declined wanting to honor this soldier in a quiet and honorable way.

Just before the race was to take place, she suffered an injury and was not sure she would be able to finish the run.  The event was timed, and the runners had to make checkpoints during the race to continue on.  On race day, Allison was determined to start the race and get as far as she could even with her injury.  With a photo of Matt Lourey pinned to her backpack, she set out on her run.

As Allison ran she noticed a woman running beside her and looking at her.  After a few seconds the woman blurted out “that’s Matt, that’s my husband” referring to the photo on the backpack.  While they continued to run Allison explained she had played “Taps” at his grave in the Arlington National Cemetery and she was running in his honor.  The two continued on, tears streaming down their faces as they ran through Washington together.

Lisa Lourey was running in the race to ready herself for an upcoming marathon to complete Matt’s dream of running a marathon.  To this day Allison believes that Matt had something to do with their meeting that day.  First of all, an incredible 30,000 runners were participating in the race.  Lisa, a marathon runner, was supposed to start in the front of the pack, and, for some reason, a glitch placed her in the group that Allison was running with.  The odds of Lisa seeing her husband’s photo on the backpack in the large crowd were just as miraculous.

As the race continued, Lisa moved ahead and completed the run before Allison.  Allison met all the timed checkpoints and covered the whole 10 miles, injury and all.  Lisa, once again, found her in the crowd and talked for some time, took photos and exchanged emails.  She went on to meet Matt’s mother and continues to contact the family regularly.  When she visits Arlington she places a penny on Matt’s grave to let the family know she came to pay her respects.

During this Memorial Day Weekend she will be found at Hudson’s Library Park with her trumpet in hand playing “Taps” at the Annual Memorial Day Parade.  The song’s final words of “All is well; speedeth all to their rest” have resonated through the hearts of countless families mourning the loss of their loved ones.