Posted: May 27, 2015 9:49 AM EST Updated: Aug 19, 2015 10:06 AM EST
Deceased veterans were honored in a familiar way near the conclusion of Friday’s Memorial Day service at the Illinois Veterans Home.
A seven-member American Legion honor guard fired a rifle salute while retired educator Beth Young played “Taps” on her bugle.
In some parts of the U.S., it’s becoming uncommon to see a real person playing “Taps” — the somber, 24-note musical arrangement that serves as a final farewell to veterans. Because of a national shortage of buglers, some military organizations have begun relying on recorded versions of Taps instead of having an actual person play the melody.
Young doesn’t like to see this trend emerging. She believes veterans deserve to have the real thing.
“That’s why I do it,” she said. “I do it basically to honor my dad and everybody else who served their country.”
Young’s father, the late E.C. Young, was a World War II veteran and longtime American Legion commander in Meredosia and Barry. As a teenager, Young would occasionally help her father if he needed someone to play Taps at a funeral or other event.
Then Young got busy with other things. She stopped playing Taps until she was 56 — around the time she was retiring from a 33-year career with the Quincy School District, where she worked as a teacher, librarian and Quiz Bowl coach. That’s when she agreed to begin helping American Legion Post 37 with bugling duties. She’s been at it since.
Young plays “Taps” about 80 times a year, mainly at funerals. She also plays at other events, such as the dedication of the Sept. 11 memorial at City Hall and the recent Quincy event commemorating the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s death.
Young said she volunteers her time because she believes it’s the right thing to do — even when she has to wait outside in unpleasant conditions.
“When the weather is really bad, I often think, ‘Well, I’m sure my dad didn’t enjoy the 100-plus-degree heat in the Philippines as he was being shot at in the 1940s, so surely I can stand here,’ ” she said.
The bugler shortage is even impacting the IVH. Nowadays, when funerals are conducted at Sunset Cemetery for veterans who lived at the home, the services routinely feature pre-recorded “Taps” played over a loudspeaker.
“It’s still a fitting way of doing it,” said Rick Gengenbacher, the IVH’s marketing director, who said the recorded version came about because of a declining number of local buglers.
“Taps is a very peaceful, calming way to end the ceremony,” he said. “It’s certainly appropriate.”
“It’s a tradition worth saving, and I would do everything in my power to help somebody learn to play ‘Taps’ or become involved,” she said.