TAPS at military funerals

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by hup_d_dup, Sep 21, 2011.

  1. hup_d_dup

    hup_d_dup Piano User

    May 28, 2009
    Tewksbury, NJ, USA
    I have been asked to play TAPS at a military funeral at National Cemetery, Bushnell, Florida. I have attended only two military funerals and my memory of the procedure is a bit hazy. I did find information that is helpful at the following website:
    Military Funeral Honors

    I don't know if I will have much a chance to speak with the other participants before the ceremony and I still have a couple of questions. Will I be directed to play from a specific location? (I would prefer to stand at some distance from the attendees, if that is possible) Will I receive a signal or direction to begin playing? If not, how long should I wait to begin after the rifle volley?

    I also would welcome any other advice from TM members who have performed TAPS at military funerals.

    (Please – and thank you in advance – My questions are directed only to to people who have actual first-hand knowledge of military funerals)

  2. flugelgirl

    flugelgirl Forte User

    Jan 20, 2008
    Seattle, WA
  3. hup_d_dup

    hup_d_dup Piano User

    May 28, 2009
    Tewksbury, NJ, USA
    Yes, that's very helpful. Thanks.
  4. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    The military funerals I've sounded Taps for, I've stood near the military detail in sight of the funeral party. When a rifle detail is present, they will present arms after firing the three volleys. A few seconds after that, begin Taps. When no rifle detail is present, the flag detail will call present arms, and you should begin Taps right after that. For funerals with no rifle or flag details, arrange when to play with the funeral director/clergy who's conducting the graveside service. It should be at the end of the service.
  5. mrbill00

    mrbill00 Pianissimo User

    Apr 20, 2009
    Middle of Georgia
    Most of the MFH Teams will arrive approx an hour before the scheduled service and do a complete
    run through. You should be there also to experience this part and it will take away some of the
    anxity that will come just before you play..Note. if there is a firing party, they will turn 45*, fire weapons, turn back
    facing forward and place the weapon weapon in front of them...wait 3-5 sec and begin to play.
    ...if it is a flag folding team only (2-3members) position yourself where you can see the member at either end of
    the casket, they will step in and salute.(sometimes this will be silent) you must be able to see their right arm salute, wait
    3-5 sec and play..To be early is to be on time, To be on time is to be late.
  6. forrest

    forrest Piano User

    Aug 14, 2007
    St Louis MO
    As mrbill00 said - the Firing Party will come to Attention, then Port Arms, turn 45º and fire, then turn back and bring rifles to "Present Arms" (held in front of them in an up and down manner).

    5 seconds after they come to Present Arms, you start sounding Taps. You really do need to be there early - not arriving with the procession.

    I was taught the casket, Firing Party and Bugler form a triangle - so place yourself in a spot that completes the 3rd point.

    Any chance to go to Bushnell prior to the day of the funeral to watch how they do things?
  7. Buck with a Bach

    Buck with a Bach Fortissimo User

    Dec 29, 2009
    Canton, Ohio
    Thank you, flugelgirl. I just printed out the whole thing, and intend to keep it for reference......Buck;-):oops:
  8. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    My old marching band director was a Marine stationed in Hawaii, and was asked to stand out of sight at a funeral. He encountered a Yellow-Jacket nest and instead of playing Taps, a bunch of loud scatological terms came out. Good thing he wasn't a sailor!

    My experience has been that the leader of the Honor Guard, after explaining the sequence for the funeral, would give me a slight nod when it came time to play. A black suit and tie is appropriate attire for a civilian.
  9. SteveB

    SteveB Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 15, 2008
    Prescott Valley, AZ
    +1. And, if you're a military veteran, a Class A uniform or "dress blues" are also appropriate.

    Kudos to you, hup_d_dup, for providing such a honorable (and much appreciated) service to our fallen veterans.
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I was in the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and for the first few years I was there, we supported almost every request for a military honors funeral that came in to the Military District of Washington, so I've done somewhere around 400 funerals in the 10 years I spent as a military bandsman - not the most ever done by a military bugler, but enough to be familiar with it.

    As for attire, a suit or a blazer if you have one, slacks, a button down and a tie if you don't.

    As for when to play, a lot of that you might have to work out with the funeral director. Talk to the funeral director and see if they have someplace specific they want you to stand. Otherwise, it's pretty much as Dale said:
    • With Firing Party: Wait until after the 3 volleys - you should hear the Firing Party Commander call, "Present, arms!" That's your cue - play any time after that.
    • Without Firing Party but with Military/VFW/American Legion representative - if they are on it, they will give the command, "Present, arms." Sometimes they'll simply throw up the hand salute, in which case you either have to be able to see it, or the funeral director will give you the sign that it's time to play.
    • With no firing party or military rep - work out with the funeral director how they are going to signal you to play.
    The truth is, there won't be much left to chance - almost always there will be a talk-through of some kind that involves the sequence of events and how you'll know when to play. The funeral directors usually have a routine they follow - they do this stuff all the time, so when in doubt, just get with them if there isn't a VFW/AL or military contingent on site.

    You don't have to wait 5 seconds after the salute command has been given. A slight pause is appropriate, but I never counted 5 seconds specifically. You don't want to wait too long though and 5 seconds is IMO pushing it.

    Regarding the uniform, I'm a vet, but I didn't retire, so I'd never wear a uniform to play "Taps" at a funeral. During my active duty days, I always wore my Class 'A' uniform prior to going to the Old Guard. In the Old Guard it was always dress blues.

    In regard to the triangle thing, that was never even a consideration in all of the funerals I did, not to mention that there are times where it just won't work. Some buglers like the whole "invisible bugler" thing where they can't be seen. I never went for that - I tried to make it look good. At times I did make up the 3rd point of the triangle, but only because that's what looked good at the time. I tried to consider wind direction, and I never wanted to play directly at the burial site. I did some really neat, picturesque funerals, and I did some that were absolutely terrible, simply due to geography. On one, we were right across the fence from a busy 4 lane highway, and as I was playing "Taps" an 18-wheeler rolled by and downshifted, and the engine growled with a really long, noisy, "BBBBRRRAAAAAAAAAAHHHRRRG!" I've done a bunch right next to busy highways, and those are always rough, but the timing of the truck on that was was truly awful. I've played Taps in torrential downpours, in sub-zero temperatures, and so hot that my trumpet would get hot in my hands.

    Probably the neatest one I ever did was up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a little cemetary - I don't know if it was just for a few families or what, but it wasn't big at all. The temperature that day was about 28 degrees, but it was very, very still - no breeze to speak of at all. About 5 minutes before I had to play it started to snow, very lightly, so there was a smattering of snowflakes drifting slowly down. Due to the location, the cold air and the fact that the air was so still, my "Taps" just rang and echoed. In roughly 400 funerals, most of them kind of run together, but there are a few that stand out.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2011

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