For some, “Taps” evokes a sense of loss because it reminds them of a friend or loved one’s funeral. Maybe it was the first time they heard the gentle voice of the bugle signal the end for a valiant hero who gave his life in sacrifice for his or her country. For others, it’s a comfort, calm and peaceful hope that settles into the hearts of families across the military base signaling the end of day.
For Meagan, who spent many years growing up on base while her father served in different tours overseas, it is the latter.
“I miss hearing Taps at sunset since I no longer live on a base. As a child, I remember my mom would get a glass of tea and sit down on the porch to wait for ‘Taps’ to play,” she said. “When my father was deployed, I felt like wherever he was in the world, we were together because somewhere across the world we shared that moment as ‘Taps’ played.”
Composed for the bugle and unique to the U.S. military, “Taps” is played at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies, and memorial services. The melody that consists of only 24 notes has the dual purpose of signaling the day’s end and serving as musical honors to servicemembers who died.
“Taps,” America’s National Song of Remembrance is named for the three distinctive drum taps also used to signal “lights out.” The song is a variation of the “Scott Tattoo” bugle call used in the United States from 1835 until 1860. Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield arranged it in its present form to replace a French bugle call that signaled the day’s end, and just months later “Taps” played by the Union and Confederate armies. The United States Army officially recognized it in 1874.
You can watch “Taps” performed by United States Army Band Bugler in Arlington National Cemetery in snow here.