GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, buglers from around the country play ‘Taps’ to honor all the soldiers who died defending our country.

This new ‘Taps Across America’ tradition coincides with a ‘National Moment of Remembrance’ tradition when people are asked to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember the significance of the holiday.

‘Taps Across America’ began in 2015, but really took off during the pandemic in 2020 as a way to continue honoring veterans without having to gather in large groups. Thousands of musicians across the country participate including Kevin Van Ess from Green Bay.

“For at least that one minute at 3 p.m., you just stop and reflect while ‘Taps’ is being played,” said Van Ess. “I thought why not be part of it and do something positive as well as give our respect to the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Van Ess’ performance generated a crowd of several of his neighbors including Debbie Woods.

“It’s important to me because my father was a World War II prisoner of war and I have a brother and brother-in-law who were in the service,” said Woods.

Van Ess said he was a school band director for over thirty years and said that honoring veterans has always been a big part of his concerts.

“I got into the patriotic music because I would always end my large band concerts with all the kids coming up together and we’d always do ‘America the Beautiful,'” said Van Ess.

A simpler version of ‘Taps’ started out as a call for soldiers to turn out the lights and go to bed back in the 19th century. A Union General Daniel Butterfield thought that the sound of ‘Taps’ was too formal for this use, so he reworked it as a tune that buglers could play at solemn occasions like military funerals.

‘Taps’ was first played during a military funeral during the Civil War when an officer ordered that ‘Taps’ replace the standard rifle salute because he was afraid gunfire would let the enemy know their position.

Memorial Day began as ‘Decoration Day’ because of the longstanding tradition of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. New York became the first state to designate Memorial Day as a holiday, and Congress passed legislation to make it a national holiday in 1971.

“People died for us and they have families and they have families who don’t have their spouses or their fathers because they went and served for us and died for us,” said Woods.