The plaintive, dignified notes of “Taps” were first used as a call to soldiers for lights out but later became one of the key parts of sending off heroes who had fallen in service. These days, a military funeral without this beautiful, moving bugle call just wouldn’t be the same.
But beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, the lack of buglers led to many funerals where “Taps” was played on cassette tape or CD. In 2002, citing the dwindling pool of buglers (around 500) compared to the number of veterans at home and in the field who were dying, the Department of Defense adopted digital or self-playing bugles as an alternative. For some veterans and one Minnesota man who never got the chance to serve, this wasn’t enough.
Retired Wayzata, Minnesota, businessman Gary Marquardt happened to attend a military funeral when he realized that “Taps” was being played from a recording rather than by a live bugler. This just didn’t sit right with Marquardt, who told Minneapolis news station KARE 11: “it just seemed that after what they’ve given,” a live bugler sounding “Taps” “wasn’t much to ask.”
Marquardt had a special sense of responsibility and even guilt, as he had been declared unfit to serve during the Vietnam War due to a bleeding ulcer. While many of his peers went on to fight and some died in service of their country, Marquardt remained at home and eventually created and sold his own company, becoming wealthy in the process.
Saddened to hear a recording of Taps at a military funeral, retiree Gary Marquardt did the only reasonable thing he…
When he saw and heard what he thought was a lack of effort to honor the fallen, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Marquardt had no prior experience playing horns but bought one and practiced day and night, much to the chagrin of his wife and neighbors. Gary’s neighbors joked that if they were him, they would have given up or moved out. His wife said “we were all hoping he would get better.”
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After lots and lots of practice—”he played all the time” his wife said—Gary began to improve and started finding graves in nearby cemeteries where he played for the fallen.
Eventually, he joined a volunteer organization called Bugles Across America, which was founded on the idea of recognizing “the service these Veterans have provided to their country” and giving each one “a live rendition of Taps by a real bugler.”
Gary now gets to wear a uniform as he plays “Taps” at military funerals where families have requested the services of Buglers Across America. He admits that his technique still isn’t perfect, but he does his best to give fallen veterans the send-off they earned and their families the honor owed them by a grateful country.
It isn’t just at funerals where Gary’s playing has had a positive impact on people. His evening bugling, hearkening back to the original use of “Taps” to call lights out at military camps and barracks, brings people around Lake Minnetonka together for a moment of silence and reflection. As Marquardt says, “It’s the last call. It’s daily rest. It’s a prayer.”
When his friends were being drafted for Vietnam, Gary Marquardt was passed over due to a medical condition. He’s never quite felt right about it. So, in retirement Gary bought a horn and took lessons to learn to play Taps. Now he plays tributes at military funerals and daily visits to cemeteries. “I don’t play perfect every time,” he says, “but I’m doing something for these guys and it comes from the heart.”
Posted by KARE 11 on Sunday, May 21, 2017