Being recognized at the national level by an organization is an amazing honor and not one usually bestowed on someone who has not even yet graduated from high school. But when someone goes above and beyond, continuously, it does get noticed and word spreads. North Toole County High School student Wyatt Manthey’s dedication to serving his community and volunteering has been noticed and recognized at the national level by the American Legion Auxiliary as he was recently awarded the organization’s Good Deed award.
It all started back when Wyatt Manthey was in fifth grade and chose to learn the trumpet in band. Not long after his parents, Dale and Marcia Manthey, told him that he needed to learn how to play “Taps.” Wyatt did just that and a couple of years later his “Taps” playing was shared with the community and the American Legion.
“I got involved in the American Legion through a Veterans Day assembly my seventh grade year,” explained Wyatt. “My band teacher asked me to play ‘Taps’ and members of the American Legion were there, it was like an audition of sorts. After that, one of the American Legion members, usually Dusty Bailey, would get a hold of me or my dad to let me know of an event coming up that would need a ‘Taps’ player.”
Since 2017 Wyatt has played “Taps” at more than 25 funerals. His recorded number stands at 29, but he admits there have been times he played that he neglected to write down.
“I have played 29 times that I have written down. However, I have played at many funerals that I neglected to write down, so the number is actually higher,” said Wyatt.
This has not gone unnoticed by his community or the American Legion. Back in March Wyatt received a letter from the American Legion Auxiliary’s National Children and Youth Chairman Lisa Williamson informing him that the American Legion was nationally recognizing and awarding his efforts.
“The American Legion Auxiliary is proud to present this award to you! We want to thank you for your efforts and making a difference in your community,” the letter states. This award was created in 2002, by the American Legion Auxiliary National Children and Youth Committee to recognize girls and boys who demonstrate a kind, caring act of selflessness.
Wyatt’s commitment to his community and volunteering to help out however he can does not stop at performing “Taps.” He’s one of the first to volunteer for various community clean-up days organized by the schools, towns and associations in his area. He has assisted with wrapping gifts at the Elks Lodge for Toys for Tots and is a member of North Toole County High School’s National Honor Society.
“I have other community service projects that I do for the National Honor Society and I always come back to my parents to help give me ideas on what project I should do,” said Wyatt. “Serving the community, for me, is a way of giving back. The main people that I serve are the passed military members who can properly rest with the playing of ‘Taps’, as well as the families of the military member. It is my way of saying thanks for all that the military members have done for me and a way to acknowledge the sacrifices that come along with being in a military family.”
Wyatt has full intentions of continuing his “Taps” playing, no matter where life might take him after high school. It’s not so much about the song itself, but what it means that makes it truly important to Wyatt and he is saddened when he hears of those laid to rest when no “Taps” player has been available.
“A dream I have had since I started playing started when I heard about a bugler who had passed away and when that happened he didn’t have a live ‘Taps’ player,” said Wyatt. “This was several states away from Montana, but I wished I could have been there. He had honored so many by playing, but didn’t have anybody to do the same for him. I wish that someday and time I would be able to receive a call and travel to any funeral in need of a live ‘Taps’ player. Even if I am never able to achieve this, once I am in college or if I am living in a different area, I plan to find a local American Legion or VFW and see if it is possible for me to play ‘Taps’ there. I want to continue playing even if I am no longer in this area.”
But for now Wyatt will continue to share his talents and selfless acts in Sunburst and throughout the area. A busy high school student involved in basketball and football, the district parliamentarian for FCCLA, along with National Honor Society and Pep Band, Wyatt has plenty to keep him busy in between his community service endeavors. He also enjoys spending time with his parents and siblings, Morgan, Virgil and Jasper.
“Outside of school, I don’t belong to any particular organization,” said Wyatt. “I spend a good deal of my time with family, working full-time during the summer and helping my friends or with various projects.”
But rest assured, no matter how busy Wyatt might be, he will always make time to answer the call to honor those who were willing to sacrifice so much for everyone else with a simple, but powerful gesture, that of playing “Taps.”