Hijacking Taps

Note: This posting is not meant to demean any honor guard of any branch of the military. It is simply a true story from our cache of stories …

In January the father of a good friend passed away. And in September, we were honored to assist them in conducting a graveside memorial service in the Catskill’s, quite a distance from our home. So on a Saturday morning, we made the drive out with a van load of equipment and our friend’s father’s ashes, as well.

We found the Veteran’s Cemetery, located the grave lot, and proceeded to set up the equipment. Soon people began to arrive; and shortly, the honor guard arrived as well. There were three soldiers in attendance. What I noticed immediately was that the bugler seemed to be preparing to use a ceremonial bugle.

“The Ceremonial Bugle …

is a dignified method of playing Taps at a military funeral when a live bugler is not available for military funeral ceremonies. It was developed in order to provide a solemn visual image and as an alternative to the playing of a recorded version of Taps on a CD/cassette player.

The Ceremonial Bugle has an electronic insert that enables an individual to “symbolically” play Taps, a more respectful means to honor those who served.”

With fewer musicians available for the rendering of military honors, someone has created this product that usually works well in presenting “Taps” during a ceremony. I have seen the ceremonial bugle used successfully many times. But there were a couple of times when it was not so successful.

As I was watching the people assemble and participants preparing for the memorial service, I remembered some of those not-so-successful attempts and decided to prepare myself as well, not really thinking that I would need to do anything.

The military honor guard positioned themselves, two under the canopy to present the flag and the bugler a good distance away. And the ceremony began. The flag bearers extended the American flag as they waited for playing of taps. The bugler brought the bugle to his lips and . . . nothing happened. He, in a very stately manner, slowly dropped the bugle to his side (presumably make sure the switch was in the “on” position) and lifted it to try again . . . to no avail. With great military bearing, and as his coworkers were still standing with their arms furled out wide holding the flag, he slowly moved the bugle away from his face once again and gave it a little shake. Perhaps he was hoping that it would jar just a little bit of electricity from the battery–just enough to play “Taps” one time, please?

Once again, the bugle traveled to his lips only to leave the audience wondering, and the flag bearers struggling to maintain stance. Meanwhile, I had stepped out of the view of those in attendance and had “Taps” queued up in my cell phone. I wasn’t confident about the volume nor how well it would travel. But I did know that hijacked “Taps” is better than no “Taps” — so I drew in a “here goes” breath and pressed play.

The two soldiers holding the flag seemed to perk up a bit taller as the bugler swiftly but smoothly put the bugle to his lips and held the stance throughout the playing of “Taps” from who-knew-where. As the tribute concluded, the flag bearing soldiers proceeded with the rest of the honors ceremony as though nothing had been amiss.

As the regular military honor guard were making their formal retreat, the one of senior rank caught my eye and his expression conveyed both gratitude and relief. And since the attendees didn’t really know what was happening, they didn’t understand that there was an equipment malfunction nor did they realize that I had just hijacked “Taps.”



Note: I believe that the color guard inspected and tested the equipment prior to beginning the service. It just seemed to be a “matter of what can go wrong–will go wrong.” 




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