"Lord of our lives, our hope in death, we cannot listen to Taps without our souls stirring. Its plaintive notes are a prayer in music–of hope, of peace, of grief, of rest… Prepare us too, Lord, for our final bugle call when you summon us home! When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and death will be no more."
-From the invocation delivered by Chaplain (Colonel) Edward Brogan (USAF, Ret.) at the Taps Exhibit Opening Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, 28 May 1999
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Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than the call Taps. The melody is both eloquent and haunting, while the history of its origin is interesting and somewhat clouded in controversy. In the British army, a similar type of signal called Last Post has been sounded over soldiers’ graves since 1885, but the use of Taps is unique to the United States military, since the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies, and memorial services. A bugle call that beckons us to remember patriots who served our country with honor and valor, it is the most familiar call and one that moves all who hear it.
On any weekday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, a military ritual occurs that is both familiar and moving. An escort of honor comes to attention and presents arms. A firing party comes to attention, then fires three volleys. After the briefest of moments, a bugler sounds the twenty-four notes of America’s most famous bugle call. The flag, held by members of the military honor guard, is then folded into a triangle reminiscent of the cocked hat from the American Revolution. That ritual is performed almost twenty times daily during the many funerals held at Arlington.
For more information about Taps, bugling, and the history of this military tradition, visit the Website of Jari Villanueva, Taps Historian and Bugler.