Recruiting buglers for military funerals

A bugler at Arlington National Cemetery

A Pennsylvania lawmaker’s bill requiring schools to train trumpet- and bugle-playing students to play taps could help provide much-needed buglers for military funerals. It offers an opportunity to go a step further.

Rep. Bryan Lentz, a Delaware County Democrat, last week introduced the legislation in the state House. It’s the second go-around for Lentz: A similar measure passed the House unanimously in 2008. 

“Everybody that served their country deserves military honors, and military honors include the playing of taps,” he told The Morning Call. “I want to make sure there are people available who know how to play it.”

We have plenty of war veterans to honor when they die.

World War II vets, now in their mid-80s and beyond, are dying every day. Of 16 million who served in the armed forces during the war, only 2.5 million survive. There are Korean War veterans, in their 80s too, and Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom are in their late 50s. There are Persian Gulf War vets from 1991 and now, the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

All deserve a proper salute at their gravesides, and that means a bugler.

Recorded versions of taps are used as substitutes, and some argue that mourners can’t tell the difference, but let’s face it: Push-button renderings of taps don’t have the emotional impact of the real thing. 

At the funerals for World War II vets, the bugler and honor guard giving the rifle salute have often been their colleagues. Most are too old and frail now to carry on that duty.

Lentz says teaching taps would “assure that our brave soldiers will be honored with a version of taps that is performed by trained and talented musicians for years to come.”

It’s a fine idea and deserves to become law.

If that happens, veterans groups such as the VFW and American Legion should seize the opportunity at the local level. They could work with schools to give the student buglers opportunities to play at military funerals. Sure, a great many funerals take place on school days, but maybe schools could allow a student bugler to attend one or more, and the VFW or American Legion could provide transportation. Plus, there’s no reason a trained student bugler couldn’t play on Memorial Day, when we honor the war dead.

So teach high school trumpeters to play taps and let them play at military funerals. The benefit would be two-fold: It would give young people an appreciation for veterans, and ensure the vets get a burial befitting their service to the country. 


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