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Dubuque resident honors veterans through bugle ritual

September 29, 2018

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Every evening before sunset, a Dubuque veteran holds a ceremonial bugle, pushes a play button and raises the instrument to his lips.

Although the wistful notes of taps come from a recording, the dedication with which the veteran carries out this rite — and the emotion it evokes in bystanders — is tangible.

“Oh, when you hear it, there’s no words,” said Marlene Olson, who with her husband, Teddy Olson, recently visited Veterans Memorial Plaza on Chaplain Schmitt Island, where the veteran performs.

The Telegraph Herald is not identifying the name of the player, who requested anonymity because he does not want recognition.

Instead, he wants people to remember the deceased service members who are memorialized at the plaza, which celebrated its grand opening in November 2009. The memorial features a curved wall and 6-ton granite globe.

It is dedicated to the branches of the military and recognizes the wars in which Americans served.

The veteran has played there most nights since August. Sometimes, he is the only one who hears the music. Other nights, passers-by or fellow members of American Legion Post No. 6 in Dubuque stop to listen.

“When I hear taps, I almost get choked up,” said U.S. Navy veteran Mike Martin, of Dubuque, who served in the military from 1958 to 1962. “My father was in the military. A bunch of relatives and uncles were in the military. It just pulls on your heartstrings for the people that have defended us and that allow us to live the life that we are living.”

That the veteran uses a ceremonial bugle is not uncommon to veterans service organizations, who are tasked with conducting military honors at funerals.

Faced with a nationwide shortage of buglers in the armed forces, U.S. lawmakers in 1999 authorized the playing of a recorded version of taps.

Typically, funeral details use ceremonial bugles, which consist of a speaker inserted into the bell of the instrument.

Teddy Olson was raised in Dubuque, but he and Marlene Olson now live in Durand, Illinois. Both of their fathers served in the armed forces.

“My father didn’t ever think he was ever going to come home when his ship got hit,” Marlene Olson said, speaking of her father’s service in World War II. “He did make it home. Thank you, God, he did make it home.”

She said her father could not bring himself to speak about the war. Teddy Olson said his father felt the same way.

“Till the day he died, him and I never sat down and talked about it,” he said. “My dad said guys that go (to war) want to tell you all these stories. The problem is, ‘What about the guys who never got to tell their stories?’”

Although taps has been a funeral standard since 1891, it also is played at dusk to signal the conclusion of the day.

“When we play the funeral, we say they’ve met their final resting place,” the veteran bugler said. “Every night, you’re hitting your resting place, too. It’s your peace for the night.”

Come rain or shine, he intends to keep making the bugle call.

___

Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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