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Athens trumpeter called away to play in Washington, D.C.

HUNTSVILLE (AP) — Staff Sgt. Jason Sanders had no idea music would give him a chair on the sidelines of history when he first picked up a horn about 17 years ago.

But as a trumpet and bugle player assigned to the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, D.C., the 30-year-old Athens native has gotten just that.

Sanders was visiting his parents in Athens for the holidays when he got a call to return to the East Coast to play as President Gerald Ford was carried into the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday. Ford died Dec. 26 and will lie in state at the rotunda before funeral services Tuesday.

Sanders had planned to celebrate the New Year in Alabama, but didn’t mind having his holiday cut short to participate in the services.

“You get to do many things that civilian musicians don’t,” Sanders said of the honor.

In his three years with the band he has been part of the nation’s official soundtrack, helping set the right solemn or celebratory mood at award ceremonies, welcoming foreign leaders or during White House events. He also played during the funeral of former President Reagan in June 2004.

Sanders had no intentions of playing past middle school or high school, but thanks to lots of practice and some great teachers — he gives special credit to Bibi Black of Decatur and Ken Engle of Hartselle — he went to college on music scholarships after graduating from Tanner High School in 1995.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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