AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Cpl. Matthew E. Bucceri has something to pipe about. He’s played his bagpipes for the entire city of Ramadi.
Bucceri, a 29-year-old infantryman, made his way onto the roof of the Government Center, one of the most dangerous spots in Ramadi, and played the “Marines’ Hymn” through the building’s loudspeaker system, April 3.
His music could literally be heard across Ramadi.
“I’m all about playing the bagpipes anywhere,” said Bucceri, from East Rutherford, N.J. “I love playing the instrument and I especially love playing for the Marines.”
Bucceri worked as an electrician all over the Garden State when he was introduced to playing the bagpipes. Intrigued by the opportunity to do something different, Bucceri joined a pipe and drum band started by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a local work union.
Today his passion for Scottish tunes has taken him places he never thought he would go.
“Lots of people want to play the guitar or other music instruments like the flute growing up,” he said. “I just always had a passion to play the bagpipes.”
Bucceri was passionate enough to play the pipes in the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, along with several Veteran’s and Memorial Day parades. Soon after, he began to get invitations to play for weddings and memorial services.
Bucceri also performed at the inauguration ceremony for Jim McGreevy, former New Jersey governor.
After witnessing the attacks of Sept. 11, Bucceri felt he had to do something for his country. He traded his kilt and bagpipes in for camouflage utilities and a rifle.
“When I joined the Marine Corps I wasn’t planning on quitting the bagpipes, I just planned to play again when I finished my tour,” he added.
He was reunited with his music during his third deployment to Iraq while operating in Gharmah in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.
“While I was deployed, my wife Liz started a bagpipe fund with my family, friends, and co-workers,” Bucceri said. “She bought it behind my back and sent it to me as a surprise.”
Bucceri said Elizabeth sent him the bagpipes to pass time in Iraq and to boost the morale of his fellow Marines.
The battalion’s Marines all appreciate Bucceri’s “jokester” personality and enjoy being treated to his music.
“He’s a funny guy. He keeps the platoon laughing no matter what’s going on,” said Lance Cpl. Justin D. Sims, a 21-year-old from Covington, Ky. “He always has something to say.”
In fact, it’s Bucceri’s talent for the bagpipes that caused his command to play lasting tributes from Marines fallen in battle. He was asked to play his pipes at memorial services.
He agreed to do it, not just for the Marines but for their families as well. He said he feels his music adds a more personal touch to the ceremony then a song played from a recording.
“I started playing for the Marines’ memorials last year and everywhere I go I keep the memorial service programs with me,” he said. “I set them inside my carrying case as a reminder of their sacrifice.”
Bucceri, now on his fourth deployment to Iraq, continues to keep his fellow Marines morale as high as his music is loud.
Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, the battalion’s commanding officer, asked Bucceri to play his bagpipes from the Government Center as a remembrance for the recently fallen of the battalion and to send a message to the insurgents.
Neary, is not only Bucceri’s boss, he was the officer-in-charge of the Marine who recruited Bucceri into the Corps some four years ago.
Bucceri played the Marines’ Hymn flawlessly, despite wearing a full combat load of equipment, body armor, ammunition and other supplies.
The Marines standing on post on the roof of the government center were initially shocked to hear the Marines’ Hymn but once Bucceri finished, they all began to cheer.
“It was really cool,” said Pfc. Beamer B. Dyas, a 19-year-old from Memphis, Tenn. “Sitting on post you see and hear the same thing over and over, you don’t expect to hear something like that every day.”
“This is to let the insurgents know that they can place as many IEDs as they want and try to do whatever they wish, however, they’ll never break our spirits or take away our morale,” Bucceri said.