The venerable tradition of playing live taps at veterans' funerals and memorial services is making a comeback.
Bugles Across America, founded by an ex-Marine from Berwyn, has enlisted more than 5,000 volunteers to play the haunting, 24-note bugle call.
Since 2000, Bugles Across America volunteers have played taps at 60,000 veterans' funerals, said founder Tom Day.
After World War II, the military eliminated the position of bugler to save money, Day said. Consequently, taps was played at fewer and fewer funerals.
Day founded Buglers Across America in 2000 to recruit volunteers from high schools, colleges, honor guards and drum-and-bugle corps. Volunteers now play taps at about 1,000 funerals a month. The service is free, but the buglers accept tips.
Nevertheless, at many funerals, taps is still played on a boom box, or not at all.
Day, 67, estimates he has played taps at about 5,000 funerals. Each time, he strives to play it with emotion. He hangs out the notes, especially the last one, which softly fades away.
"I regard it as a musical prayer," Day said. "Every time you lift that horn slowly to your face, you have to be in a certain zone."
Day approaches each performance as if it were an Olympic competition. If he makes a mistake, he explains, "there's no do-over."
I think Bugles Across America is doing a fine thing.
'Taps' was played as part of the military honors at my brother-in-law's funeral last year. On this day of remembrance, please go read it and also please pardon me for blowing my own horn, pun intended.