WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Navy veteran said he took trumpet lessons in grade school, but then, he put the instrument down.
John Noonan didn’t start playing again until decades later, and he now uses his talent to honor heroes.
Noonan says he knew he was going to be drafted, so he signed up for the Navy.
“See as much of the world as I could,” Navy Veteran John Noonan said.
Many people have seen Noonan climbing the small hill at the Veterans Memorial Park by the Arkansas River.
“It’s a humongous honor.”
For all those who hear him play his trumpet, it’s truly an honor.
“I play Taps, and the National Anthem, and a few other pieces for events.”
He plays for special occasions for Old Glory and to welcome home veterans on the Kansas Honor Flights.
“This is a gig that keeps me pretty busy.”
Sometimes, he’ll play several times in one week, off in the distance, away from ceremonies.
“When they are laid to rest, they need to have an honor.”
He said that goes for all those who have served.
“I’ve played several homeless veteran Taps that just eats your heart out.”
Sometimes, he’s one of the few who gather at their services, along with others like him who truly understand sacrifice.
Noonan was a sonar technician in his time in the service.
“We not only operated the sonars, but we repaired them.”
They used sonar for hunting submarines. Noonan says his hearing is great.
“Really interesting occupation, from the standpoint we learned how sound is delivered and received in water,” Noonan said. “We had a lot of anti-submarine warfare exercises.”
He said submarines ran very quietly.
“We were sitting ducks.”
He said he had many interesting times while serving.
“They would have the planes taking off, coming back, we would go along the carriers as the battle group.”
Noonan said they were watching the sky on the USS McMorris.
“If one of the planes crashed, our job was to go out and do search and rescue.”
He also served on a destroyer, the USS Wallace Lind.
“We also did gun line duty on the Wallace Lind, in which we were firing on to the shore on South Vietnam and North Vietnam.”
He said the war in Vietnam was over at that time, but they were still doing cleanup duty.
“We were over in the same general area, except we were tracking Russian missiles coming out into the ocean.”
He said they also tracked North Vietnamese boats that were carrying weapons to the south.
When he was overseas, he said the most impactful was their visit through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
“Learned a tremendous amount from the historical perspective, but then really got to see a lot of the Pacific Rim countries.”
He said his six years in service taught him so much.
“You went in as you know not really understanding war and just came out of that. I mean, it is a life-changing experience.”
His dedication to serving others still rings true today, but now he’s only armed with a copper bell trumpet.
“It’s just a beautiful instrument.”
He uses his talent and ensures note by note he gives heroes a proper final salute.
“You are playing for millions of men and women all over the world who died in battle.”
Noonan said one time he was playing a Vietnam Veterans Day event when a man approached him and said he was really struggling.
“He said when I was in Vietnam, I killed a lot of Vietnamese soldiers when I was 19, and I didn’t know what I was doing.”
The man asked Noonan if he could play for all of them too.
Noonan said he agreed and has always kept that close to his heart every time he raises his trumpet.
Noonan spent six years in the Navy, and when he got out, he said he took advantage of the GI Bill and went to college.
He went to KU for Computer Science and said his technical experience from the Navy came in handy.
After a successful career, he started playing the trumpet more.
“When I retired, that was the one thing I wanted to try to do.”
That’s why he joined Bugles Across America.