GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A simple melody…with an unmistakable meaning.
“It can tug at the heart strings,” said Gene Burmeister, Vietnam Veteran and volunteer bugler.
The military bugle call Taps, a final salute to those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.
“The reason you’re there playing is because some guy volunteered to give his life for his country,” Burmeister said.
But as the number of live buglers has dwindled…
“Not everybody has that skill set and so it’s important and it’s needed,” said volunteer bugler Germaine Dolata from Neenah.
…and technology has marched on, the playing of taps is often relegated to a recording.
“Either through the digital horn or somebody holding up a boom box or smartphone or whatever,” said Gene Vanden Bosch, Wisconsin State Director for Bugles Across America.
Making the presentation of Military Honors, sometimes, less than honorable.
“I hear stories,” said Burmeister. “The most common is the batteries were dead. This thing’ll start playing… dum dum dum….. and it’ll just die right there. What do you do?”
For retired Marine and bugler Tom Day, that idea struck a wrong note.
“What a dishonor,” said Burmeister.
That’s why Day founded Bugles Across America in 2000.
“The organization was founded to be able to have a way of honoring veterans with a live version of Taps, instead of having a recorded version,” explained Vanden Bosch.
In the two decades since Bugles Across America began, more than 4,000 buglers across the nation have heeded the call.
“To me, it’s a small token of respect and appreciation,” said Dolata.
Volunteering their time and talent, so our veterans are laid to rest with a traditional live bugle call.
“It’s to honor them, to honor their service and their time…and to honor their sacrifice,” said Vanden Bosch.
While there may be a shortage of military buglers, there are civilian trumpet players. For many, who’ve never served in the military themselves, playing Taps for those who have is the least they can do to say “thank you” for our freedom, according to one volunteer bugler.
Taps, as it’s written, is simple.
“To look at it on paper it’s easy, but to actually do it…” explained Dolata.
In fact, it’s been called the 24 toughest notes ever played.
“Because of what it represents,” Burmeister explained. “I’d be lying if I said I never choked playing Taps.”
But it’s a challenge the volunteers take on with pride.
“You want to do it flawlessly,” said Vanden Bosch.
A patriotic duty, they say, to give back to those who’ve given us our freedom.
“They deserve this and much, much more,” said Burmeister.
Local 5’s Connie Fellman, who brought us this story, is a member of Bugles Across America and has been volunteering to play Taps for more than three decades.