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Playing Taps:
Braving the weather for a final farewell

Volume 5 Issue 1 Spring-Summer 2018
This article originally appeared on December 15, 2017 in the Reporter-Times. It has been edited for space.

On December 14, 2012, the country was reeling. The tragic massacre that took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut had just occurred. Flags were flown at half-staff. Prayer vigils were held. And nationwide, a call went out to buglers on Dec. 15, 2012, to play Taps in their respective communities at 7 p.m. for seven days straight.

In Martinsville, Indiana, solitary bugler Bruce McKee performed the duty at the courthouse square each evening. On the last night, a resident asked McKee if the name of a local veteran who had died that week could be acknowledged prior to playing Taps. Playing Taps

At that moment, Taps on the Square was born — and every Friday night since that day, members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, other veterans and community members have gathered at 6:50 p.m. by the flagpole on the southwest corner of the courthouse to honor the service members who died that week from across the country or whose remains were recently identified. They also take the opportunity to honor Rosie the Riveter who passed away and those first responders, including firefighters and police officers, who died in the line of duty that week.

After the names are read, up to four buglers stand on each corner of the square and play a cascading rendition of Taps in which one bugler begins, soon followed by another, then another and another until the sounds of Taps echo off the buildings and streets of the square.

The solemn ceremony is a powerful testament to the dedication of the volunteer organizers who have never missed a single Friday night, regardless of weather. “The cold and snow has been the worst,” McKee said. “There’s been a couple times it’s been below zero. I got my lips stuck to my bugle mouthpiece one day.”

But for McKee and the other participants, a few minutes outside in bad weather is nothing compared to what many veterans endured during their service. “The weather conditions they put up with for all those years during combat — they went through all kinds of weather,” McKee said, referencing the Battle of the Bulge, among others. “So it doesn’t hurt us to stand out there for 10 minutes to honor their memories.” brave flag

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