Veterans buried in silence: Group tries to revive Taps at military funerals

Hundreds of American veterans die each day and each of them unquestionably earned the honor of having “Taps” played during their burial ceremony as a final tribute for their sacrifice.

“It's the most haunting 24 notes a person hears and, if played correctly, it can make you cry,” said Tom Day, the founder of Bugles Across America.

Unfortunately, today many veterans are buried in silence. There simply aren’t enough buglers to play at every funeral.

As an alternative, there is a growing use of a small electronic box that has Taps pre-recorded onto it. A person with no musical ability can place the little box into a trumpet or bugle and “press play,” giving the sound and appearance of a musician playing Taps live.


To some, the Taps recording version is sufficient. But Day and others say the “fake” version robs veterans of the true dignity of having a bugler play live at their funeral.

“That man and woman who served his country or her country – our country—they deserve the best,” Day told Fox News.

So in 2000, Day launched his organization, Bugles Across America. The organization basically seeks out buglers across the country ready and willing to play at funerals in their region.

Today, Bugles has established a database of 5,000 horn players nationwide, ranging in age from 10 to 95. A grieving family can enter their zip code into the Bugles Across America website to find the nearest Bugler.

“That’s my goal, make as many families happy,” Day said. “Whether I’m playing at a house or church or wherever they want me to play, that’s where I go.”

Day says Bugles Across America has played at more than 200,000 funerals for families of the fallen since the year 2000.

“It’s my prayer and I just love playing it and taking care of people,” Day said.


The bugle itself is a very unique instrument. Only capable of playing a few notes. Historically, it’s been used almost entirely for military purposes.

Day, realizing how scarce a real bugle has become, reached out to different instrument manufacturers in an effort to ensure bugles would continue to be made. A little bit of American “fate” was made when he contacted Getzen music company in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Getzen agreed to team up with Day and became the first all-American manufacturer of Bugles in decades.

“An eye opening experience to realize just how many veterans don’t have the honor of the sound of a live bugler to sound Taps,” said Getzen president Brett Getzen.

Today, Getzen manufactures hundreds of hand-made bugles at its Wisconsin factory.

Getzen, whose grandfather had Taps played by a bugler at his funeral, says it’s an honor to manufacturer an instrument used almost entirely at veterans burials.

“These people sacrificed and gave for us, it’s the least we can do is to provide an instrument and an actual musician to give them their final honors.”

Bugles Across America, a non-profit organization, doesn’t charge families and is currently averaging about 2,300 funerals nationwide each month. It offers a live musician who uses a real brass instrument to play that instantly-recognizable patriotic song to send off America’s finest buried in red, white and blue.

“When I see pride in the family’s faces, I know it’s in their heart,” Day said. “And I go home very happy, hoping I can do it again tomorrow.”

Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC