“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
On any weekday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, a military ritual occurs that is both familiar and moving. First, an escort of honor comes to attention and presents arms. Next, a firing party comes to watch, then fires three volleys. Finally, after the briefest moments, a bugler sounds the twenty-four notes of America’s most famous bugle call. The flag, held by military honor guard members, is then folded into a triangle reminiscent of the cocked hat from the American Revolution. This ceremony is performed almost twenty times daily during the many funerals held at Arlington.
None of the military bugle calls 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. A similar signal called the Last Post has been sounded in the British army over soldiers’ graves since 1885. Still, the music and use of Taps are unique to the United States military since the call is displayed at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies, and memorial services. Although it is a bugle call that beckons us to remember patriots who served our country with honor and courage, it is the most familiar call and moves all who hear it.
For a complete history, you can order “Twenty-Four Notes That Tap Deep Emotions-The Story of America’s Most Famous Bugle Call” by Jari Villanueva.