By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison KaiserslauternMay 23, 2012
LANDSTUHL, Germany (May 23, 2012) -- Troops passing Hartmut Hausser's post outside Landstuhl Regional Medical Center's emergency room hand their ID cards to the blue-uniformed security officer, a witty character whose comments make them laugh as they pass.
Some know Hausser simply as the charming Pond's security officer at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, who befriends passersby -- a welcoming fixture for LRMC staff, wounded Soldiers and visiting family members.
Others call him "Bob the Bugler."
During Memorial Day weekend, and in the weeks to follow, Hausser will perform taps at various stateside sites and take part in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. His role, as the German representative of the national organization Bugles Across America, is something Hausser holds dear.
"The emotion gets to me, about taps," Hausser said, as a blue bus with large red cross passes by his post to unload wounded U.S. troops at the nearby ER entrance.
At age 5, Hausser first picked up his father's German hunting horn, sounding out a few notes. Growing up near Americans in Stuttgart, Hausser recalls taps played on nearby posts. But he first heard taps from his black and white television, as actor Montgomery Clift played the somber tune in the film "From Here To Eternity." His father pointed out how Clift wasn't really playing.
"That's how I first got involved with taps," Hausser said.
As a child, Hausser loved Western novels by German writer Karl May -- tales of the U.S. 7th Cavalry sounding Taps when Apache chief Winnetou dies -- solidifying the importance of the bugle call. During the early 1970's, during a Christmas exchange program, Hausser's father brought an American Soldier home. The Soldier, a Texan who gave Hauser a big belt buckle that he still owns, told Hausser how buglers played taps to end the day in garrison and during funerals.
Hausser served as a German Army paratrooper and still proudly displays his jump wings. He began working for Pond's security at U.S. bases during the height of the recent U.S. wars. While at LRMC, a chaplain asked Hausser to play taps at a memorial for a staff member who died. When he introduces himself by Hartmut, an old fashioned German name, Americans often stumble. So Hausser, whose middle name is Robert, says "Call me, Bob."
"Today, I'm honored to play taps on occasion, when needed for memorial services to honor the American Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, so we can live in freedom," Hausser said.
During a previous stateside trip, Hausser blew taps in Sheridan, Wyo. Hausser's often called upon to render the tribute in Europe. He's played taps at LRMC, American cemeteries in France and Belgium and on Ramstein Air Base.
"People have now given me the distinguished honor to take part in a few commemorative events in the U.S.," Hausser said. "Therefore, I'm very thankful. It's a great honor."
In Chicago, Hausser takes part in Memorial Day activities, where the theme this year is the 150th anniversary of taps -- a bugle call for "lights out" that later was used at funerals and memorials.
During the Civil War's Peninsular Campaign, Gen. Daniel Butterfield wrote taps with bugler Oliver Norton. It was first sounded in July 1862 and became an official bugle call after the war ended.
Several stateside anniversary events will take place over the coming weeks, to include three days of activities at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia, near where the Union Army was camped, said Jari Villanueva, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant and former Arlington bugler.
"It's wonderful that we have someone like Hartmut who plays for U.S. Soldiers buried (overseas)," Villanueva said. "It's great they he can come to the states to take part in commemorative events."
After Chicago, Hausser heads to Lafayette, Ind., to meet Blake Powers, the founder of "Cooking With The Troops," whom Hausser met at LRMC. Then, in Toledo, Ohio, he'll meet Robert Whalen and Steven Gale, two vascular surgeons who volunteer at LRMC. Whalen, who first met Hauser a couple years ago, said he was surprised to find a former German soldier so dedicated to memorializing fallen troops.
"He's a great man who respects what has been done by the U.S. military," Whalen said. "It's just amazing that someone from here is that respectful of what the U.S. troops have done. His playing helps everyone to remember the sacrifice our Soldiers have made for us."
Afterward, in Cleveland, Hausser will play taps at the grave of Pvt. Robert Green, a U.S. Soldier killed at the Wereth massacre. On Dec. 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, 11 African Americans were shot by German SS troops in Wereth, Belgium. For the past five years, Hausser played taps at the memorial in the Belgian hamlet. Last year, he met Sandra Green, Pvt. Green's niece, who suggested he come to Cleveland to play at his grave.
Finally, in Virginia, Hausser will be hosted by Landstuhl Hospital Care Project founder Karen Grimord and her husband, Brian. On June 16, Hausser takes part in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. He hopes to play taps there, likely one if the first Germans to do so at Arlington.
"It's not about the bugler, Harmut Hausser travelling to the United States. It's all about the Soldiers," Hausser said. "It's all about those who deserve to hear Taps one last time and their next of kin to hear Taps played. It's my way to say thank you, to honor those in the past, the present and the future. And it means a great deal to me."