Taps, a fitting tribute

A touching moment in ceremonies for a fallen war hero is the playing of Taps by a bugler. Unfortunately, a bugler shortage often forces veterans to play a CD or record instead of the real thing.

With about 1,200 WWII veterans dying daily, there is an effort to recruit more buglers. The Pentagon urged commanders around the world to find and train buglers and rifle salute volunteers. “We want to provide the appropriate honors to veterans who pass away,” said Charles Abell, assistant secretary of defense.

Michael Hurt plays Taps for families of veterans and gets paid between $50 and $200 per funeral. But the 20-year-old college student isn’t doing it for money. “I do it to honor the veterans,” Hurt said. Beth Gay, another bugler, said, “The highest honor I’ve ever had is the privilege to playTaps for our military heroes. I don’t know how to express how I feel when one of our veterans passes away and it is my job to salute him with my music.” That’s a powerful statement, especially from someone whose accomplishments include being an Olympic Torchbearer in 1996.

Gay added that it’s her own way of contributing something to America’s “Greatest Generation.” She is touched by the moment because “Taps is the final goodbye for a friend or someone you never knew personally … except that, in days gone by, that person served our country. PlayingTaps for these men and women is and has been the highest honor of my life.”

Many veterans haven’t experienced a traditional funeral for their comrades. John Davis, a WWII commander, said he’s attended many funerals and has always had a CD playing Taps and has only been to two funerals with an honor guard. He said the Pentagon’s efforts are “wonderful” and that “a bugle rendition would be much more touching, meaningful, poignant.”

If you or someone you know can help, Pentagon officials urge you to contact a military base in your area and ask for the public information or casualty assistance offices.