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THE NATION

Pentagon's New 'Bugle' Plays Taps at the Touch of a Button

September 05, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Chronically short of musicians for military funerals, the Pentagon has approved a push-button bugle that plays taps by itself as the operator holds it to his lips.

Only about 500 buglers are on active duty on any one day, but about 1,800 people with military service die across the country each day and are eligible for honors ceremonies, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Thursday.

So, the Defense Department worked with private industry to invent the "ceremonial bugle," which has a small digital recording device inserted into its bell to play the music.

A member of the honor guard at the funeral simply presses a button on the device. A five-second delay gives the guards time to raise the instrument to their lips as if they are going to play it.

The vast majority of families endorsed its use in a six-month test in Missouri, where 50 prototypes were distributed to military units and others who provide funeral honors, the Pentagon said. Based on the test, the instrument was approved by Principal Deputy Under Secretary Charles S. Abell.

A real bugler still will be used when available. Otherwise, the family of the deceased service member will be offered the ceremonial bugle as an alternative to prerecorded taps.

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