In a meeting with veterans' service organizations in Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense John M. Molino unveiled an innovative way to improve military funeral honors. Honor guard members, though not musicians, can now play "Taps" on a recently developed ceremonial bugle, thanks to dramatic advancements in digital audio technology.
The Department worked with private industry to invent a small device that can be inserted deep into the bell of a bugle that plays a very high-quality rendition of Taps virtually indistinguishable from a live bugler. The rendition used for the bugle was recorded at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 1999.
The ceremonial bugle is intended to be a dignified alternative to pre-recorded Taps played on a stereo, but will not be used as a substitute for a military musician when one is available.
"We will ask families if they would like to take advantage of this new technology to honor their loved ones," said Molino. "In addition to the very high quality sound, it provides a dignified 'visual' of a bugler playing taps, something families tell us they want."
To use the device, a member of an honor guard needs merely to push a button and hold the bugle to his or her lips. It offers several other advantages over a stereo, including increased reliability.
The Department will begin a six-month test of the ceremonial bugle in Missouri beginning Nov. 7. Fifty prototype bugles will be distributed to military units and other authorized providers of funeral honors, such as veterans' service organizations. During the test, families and honor guard members will be surveyed. Once that data is compiled and the test is completed, a decision will be made whether to expand the program or not.
The Department of Defense provides military funeral honors free of charge to thousands of veterans' families each year. These honors demonstrate the nation's deep gratitude to those who, in time of war and peace, have defended their country. The ceremonial paying of respect is a final tribute to their service.