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Bagpipe officers honor those who made ultimate sacrifice
The bagpipe is a traditional Scottish instrument with it's own very unique sound. NEWS 5's Dennis Kellogg introduces us to two Omaha men who have learned the instrument, and are now playing it for a very special tribute.
The sounds of bagpipe music begin a ceremony to remember law enforcement officers who have died while serving their community. It's a ceremony that means a lot in particular to two of the men playing. Kevin Griffith and Nate Keenan are both officers with the Omaha Police Department.
The tradition goes back hundreds of years where police officers and firefighters played the bagpipes.
When another officer returned from a trip to New York City talking about a police officer bagpipe band there, Nate decided he would learn the instrument he jokingly said he wanted to play in high school.
"It is just one of those things where I stepped up and said I will take the lessons. I'll try to find somebody to teach me. And I guess it just got started from there and Kevin found out that I was taking lessons and wanted to join me," said Nate Keenan.
Kevin had a musical background.
"I play drums, guitar, ukulele. Always wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes," Kevin Griffith said.
Nate, though, said he was not so musically–inclined.
"I have two left feet. I cannot dance. I cannot keep rhythm so, this is one of those I did not think I would stick with it," said Keenan.
Nate and Kevin did stick with it. And that took commitment.
"You have to be dedicated for sure in order to play this instrument. You cannot just pick it up and play like it is drums or a saxophone," Keenan said.
"Yeah, it is a process to learn it. It is not just like, 'Hey, let's pick up these things. It did not work like that," said Griffith.
As Kevin likes to say, it is a fine dance between blowing into the bag and squeezing the bag and doing the finger movements so, it took awhile for me to get to this point.
Nate and Kevin have put in all those hours of practice for one reason, and that is to give something back to those who have given everything.
"It means a lot in that I have always wanted to give back not only to the department but to the men and women that I work with and those who have made that ultimate sacrifice," said Keenan.
"It is pretty powerful to be out there in front of these people now, especially when we first started we were like, 'Woah. How am I going to deal with it?'" said Griffith.
And after months of practice, Nate and Kevin have reached their goal. They can now play their bagpipes in tribute to our fallen officers and their fellow officers.
"It is kind of the culmination of everything. I mean that is the sound you want to achieve," said Griffith.
"Difficult for me to hear a wife talk about her husband who made the sacrifice. It chokes me up, so I am hoping that with us being out there, we will be able to help those families that are coping with a hard time like this," Keenan said.
Nate Keenan and Kevin Griffith - two police officers honoring their own in their own unique way.
Nate and Kevin say there are already two other Omaha police officers learning to play the bagpipes and two more are learning the drums. They eventually would like to see a bagpipe and drum band with 15 to 20 officers who would honor fallen officers during funerals, ceremonies, and parades.
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