On Friday, October 8, 2010 a funeral took place in Coldspring, Texas for  Army Sgt. Calvin Harrison. A well decorated soldier who was one of the few who make the cut for Special Forces. His team members called him , “One of our best soldiers, one of the best NCO’s, never quit attitude.”

During the funeral a lone soldier sent to play taps did his best for the equipment he was given. The equipment was a non-working electronic bugle. The company tells you to test the unit before you play it. Many wonder how appropriate it would be to test playing taps at a service. Just after the 21-gun salute the young man would raise the bugle to his lips but nothing happened. He then took it down and looked into it. As he did this it started  to play. This happened three times when they finally decided to continue with the service.

On the website there are three messages to customers. The first one states that at the end of 2008 the company will no longer be able to repair 2003 and 2004 inserts as parts will no longer be available.

But then it continues that a USB insert is being parts being used in a ceremonial bugle and has caused them to do a redesign.

Military Funeral Honors have always been provided whenever possible. However, the law now mandates the rendering of Military Funeral Honors for an eligible veteran if requested by the family. As provided by law, an honor guard detail for the burial of an eligible veteran shall consist of not less than two members of the Armed Forces. One member of the detail shall be a representative of the parent Service of the deceased veteran. The honor detail will, at a minimum, perform a ceremony that includes the folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin and the playing of Taps. Taps will be played by a bugler, if available, or by electronic recording. Today, there are so few buglers available that the Military Services often cannot provide one.

The directions for use are followed on another page.



Conditions: Given a ceremonial bugle, you will perform “Taps” as part of a military funeral honors ceremony. You have checked your instrument ahead of time and prepared yourself for the ceremony.


Standards: The performance of “Taps” is a stationary function.

Performance Steps:

1. Prepare for the ceremony:

a. Inspect your uniform.

b. Check the batteries in the insert and replace if necessary.

c. Firmly seat the bugle insert inside the bell of the bugle. (Figure 1).

d. Set the volume control based on distance from funeral site or for an inside ceremony.

e. Test the bugle prior to the funeral service.

f. Place the insert in the off position and prepare for the ceremony.

g. Position the bugle horizontally between the left arm and body, with the bell pointed forward and the left hand gripping the front tubing of the bugle and assume the position of attention. (Figure 2).

h. Assume the parade rest position (Figure 3) while waiting for the veterans remains to arrive. Simultaneous movement occurs:

1) Left foot moves 10 inches to the left of the right foot.

2) Right hand moves to the small of your back, centered on the belt.

3) Fingers and thumb extended and joined with palm facing outward.

2. Perform the following actions:

a. When the remains arrive at the burial location and are being moved from the hearse or caisson to the gravesite, come to the position of attention and render a hand salute. (Figure 4). After the casket is put in place, cut your salute and return to the position of parade rest. (Figure 3).

b. On cue, when it’s time for “Taps” to be played:

1) Come to the position of attention. (Figure 2).

2) Ready instrument. With your right hand, reach across and using your right index finger place the insert in the “on” position. (Figure 5).

This movement will require some practice if you are wearing gloves.

3) While your index finger is still inside the bell of the bugle, and the bugle is in the “on” position, continue on around and push the play button. You now have five seconds to bring the bugle up to the play position.

4) With your left hand, bring the bugle up to your lips while simultaneously bringing your right hand up to grip the top and center of the bugle. Release your left hand and bring it down to your side. (Figure 6).

5) Left arm hangs straight down without stiffness.

6) Keep left thumb straight along seam of trouser leg.

7) Left hand fingers are curled with tip of the thumb touching first joint of index finger and with the first joint of the fingers touching the trousers.

8) “Taps” is played and lasts about one minute.

9) While “Taps” is being played, breath normally as if actually playing the instrument. This will provide the veterans family with a more realistic visual image of a live bugler.

10) Upon completion of “Taps”, bring your left hand up and grip the front tubing of the bugle and return to the carry position. (Figure 7). Release your right hand and bring it down to your side and remain in the position of attention until the ceremony is completed. (Figure 2). There is no need to place the bugle in the “off” position at this time. After the funeral detail departs the area, you may place the insert in the “off” position and the service is complete.

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  1. olgezzer

    I have been sounding ‘TAPS’ for 63 years. I have passed pre-gravesite auditions for a Marine Gunny, and one for an Admiral, and now am put in a class with a
    hair-li(m)ped GOAT? Shame on you, dave rahn! And you really shouldn’t have to use profanity to make a point. Please reconsider your post, and maybe delete it?

  2. LarryWiseman

    Unfortunately, there is another misnomer here again that people think that sounding Taps is easy. VERY true, it is a simple tune, and when I was in the fourth grade, I learned to play it, but to do it in a clean manner, that is honoring to the Veteran, and not miss a note, is much more difficult than teaching a hair-lipped goat to play Taps. Ask those adults all over the USA who have tried it from scratch, and they can tell you first hand that it is not an easy task; easier for some than others, but everyone does not have the ability to just pick up a bugle, trumpet of cornet, and play Taps under the pressure that military honors brings to the table. And for anyone who has not done this, you are welcome to give it a try; if it is easy for you, then more power to you. I have been professional level player for over 52 years, and I still know that sounding Taps at a military honors funeral can be difficult if I am not totally prepared.

  3. LarryWiseman

    I must also add something to this…in our country there are many honors units that pay honors to our fallen everyday, and many do not fully comprehend the statistics. Records support the fact that we are losing our Veterans at the rate of about 2,000, daily. Because of this, it is impossible for anyone group to logistically handle the load of military funeral honors, and there are some wonderful people from groups like the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans Alliance, and the National Guard, who are working continually to facilitate and coordinate for the families of the fallen. Many times, even when called, our buglers are either previously committed, working a full time job, or out of town. In these cases, the military has no choice but to use the Fake Bugle.
    I can give you one example, as I know it, in our state of Georgia. Since April of this year, we have supported the Ga. National Guard with a Live Bugler for over 700 funeral honors details. WOW! that’s a lot. About three weeks agao, I asked SGM Bryan Hise, Coordinator for the NG in Ga. for Funeral Honors to tell me how many funerals he has done this year. His response was to date, 2,135. Yes, two thousand, one hundred and thirty five. He told me that most of them were with less than 24 hours notice.
    So one can see that at times, even we cannot keep up with the pace, and SGM Hise’s soldiers love to see us coming, with our bugles, and they hate to use the Fake Bugle. BUT, it should be noted that they also do not wish to be told that they are not honoring the fallen, just because they are forced to use the Fake Bugle many times.
    How would anyone like to have been this soldier with the Fake Bugle that did not work; how embarrassing, and humiliating is that? I feel badly for that soldier, and I pray that it NEVER happens to him(or anyone) again.
    The only thing that we at BAA would ask is that anyone who needs a bugler will call us first, and give us an opportunity to honor the fallen. If you don’t call us, then call someone, like your local high school or college band director; he or she has access to Live musicians as well. IMHOP, we should encaurage everyone to avoid using a Fake Bugle at all costs, and then, if you can’t find a real bugler, you will to take your chances that the thing will not fail on you.

  4. dave rahn

    There is no shortage of buglers!
    Any forth grader can play taps within two weeks of starting trumpet in elementary school band.
    Every funeral director worth his salt has the local high school band director primed to provide a student bugler as needed. Only the military is short because they have few bands anymore.
    I understand there is a two hour course required to learn the proper use of the digital bugle.
    Hell, I can teach a hair-limped goat to play taps within two hours!!!

  5. LarryWiseman

    As a National Coordinator and Ga. State Director for Bugles Across America, I am often saddened to see and hear of situations like this one. I would like to make it clear that BuglesAcrossAmerica,as an organization, is not at war with the Fake Bugle; what we are at odds with, is the fact that there seems to be some myth out ther that ther is some kind of shortage of buglers in the USA. Granted, the military does have shortages in various areas of the country,and military honor guards, and VSO’s use the Fake Bugle, Many are not aware that military bands are often deployed into the battle theatre, and during those deployments, the availability of trumpet players is scant at best; aside from the fact that with base closings, many military bandsmen and women are re-located. The Department of Defense directive 1300.15, Section 5.3.7.(SAYS THIS)… Provide a bugler, either military or civilian, for the sounding of Taps. Bugler support may be contracted or voluntary. The Military Service responsible for providing military funeral honors shall ensure that there is an active search for a bugler. If none is available, the Service representative may authorize the playing of a high quality recording of Taps on a stereo player or ceremonial bugle and shall ensure that it is available.
    While we acknowledge that having a Fake Bugle is always better than total silence, we are continually perplexed that many funeral honors directors refuse to do as the directive says, and ensure that there is an active search for a bugler. We are easy to find, and there are a LOT of us!
    We presently have over 7,000 volunteer buglers,ready to honor our Veterans and KIA’s. Anyone can enlist one of our volunteers by going to and clicking on Request a Bugler. Many of our buglers are amateurs, many are Veterans, and many are professional level players, but they are all capable of sounding the 24 notes of Taps adequatley. Any NCOIC can feel free to ask any of our buglers to sound Taps at the grave side, prior to the arrival of the funeral party. This is a given, for our buglers are expected to stay in shape enough to sound Taps. Whatever the level of playing, there are two very important things that you will get from our buglers.
    24 notes of Taps played by a live bugler, and that final call coming from the heart of one who is there to pay that final tribute to a man or woman who has give their all for his or her country. In playing the trumpet or bugle, there are good days, and bad days, depending on weather conditions, and the shape of the lip, but one thing that is promised from us is that our batteries don’t fail, and our bugling is not fake. With military funeral honors, there are no “do-overs”, but I for one would be willing to send one of our buglers to the graveside of this young man, and render him due honors from the real thing. God Bless the family of Sgt. Calvin Harrison, and we thank him for his sacrifice. HOOAH!

  6. Sparks

    As always, we would have been proud to honor such a soldier. Bugles Across America is known to all military units, VA and DOD. All that would have been required was to log on to our Find A Bugler. Enter mission details on the page and someone will respond.

    Ed Bilger
    Deputy Exective Director
    Bugles Across America NFP

  7. Blogger1947

    A couple of details:

    1. Field experience with the Ceremonial “bugle” has been that it occasionally misfires, even when tested immediately before use.

    2. Most users install a fresh battery each time the device is to be employed.

    3. A “21-gun salute” is a naval ceremony, performed aboard a ship. The funeral ceremony is properly known as “three rifle volleys.” As it happens, the three volleys comprise 21 rounds fired, only when seven riflemen are present to fire the volleys. Under most circumstances, fewer riflemen are sent because of logistics. Since a “volley” implies more than one rifle firing simultaneously, that tradition is fulfilled as long as there are at least two riflemen. The tradition has its roots in the Civil War, where three volleys were fired at the end of a field burial, signaling that the burial was finished, and the combatants could go back to the business of attempting to kill each other.

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