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1000 Nights at the National WWI Memorial

1000 Days and beyond for the Doughboy Foundation FEB 19, 2024

On any weekday at cemeteries throughout the United States, a military ritual occurs that is both familiar and moving. An escort of honor fires three rifle volleys.

After the briefest of moments, a bugler sounds the 24 notes of Taps, America’s most famous bugle call. The flag, held by members of the military honor guard, is then folded into a triangle reminiscent of the cocked hat from the American Revolution and then presented to the next of kin on behalf of the president and a grateful nation.

These military customs, many of which are rooted deeply and distantly in our past, have changed little over the years. The military honor guards, flag-draped caskets, the firing of three volleys, the sounding of Taps, and the folding of the flag are steeped in our history and the rendering of these honors is the ceremonial paying of respect and the final demonstration of the country’s gratitude to those who have faithfully served and defended our nation.

Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than Taps. The melody is both eloquent and haunting and the history of its origin is interesting and somewhat clouded in controversy and myth. The use of Taps is unique to the United States military, as the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying ceremonies and memorial services. Taps originally began as a signal to extinguish lights. The call was created by Union General Daniel Butterfield in July, 1862, with the help of brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia following the Seven Days’ battles during the Peninsular Campaign.

It is fitting that the call is sounded each day at the The National WWI Memorial Washington DC. This daily 5pm sounding pays tribute to the 4.7 million Americans who served during WWI and also honors every person who has donned the uniform of our country. We have reached a milestone of 1000 nights performed by buglers clad in WWI uniforms. Every day, despite any weather condition, they render honors to military members through 24 notes.


The national organization Taps for Veterans is partnered with the Doughboy Foundation to provide buglers at the memorial. The mission of TFV is to provide live buglers for military funerals. TFV also coordinates Taps Across America, the annual national sounding of Taps at 3pm each Memorial Day during the National Moment of Remembrance. Over 10,000 participants are involved.

Taps is also sounded each evening during the summer at the Soldiers Monument in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg as part of the 100 Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, program as it remembers those who have served our nation and honors those in uniform today. That program is now its 8th year and has become a destination for both local residents and tourists in Gettysburg.

The Doughboy Foundation and Taps for Veterans is partnering with Honor Flight Network to provide buglers to sound Taps when Veterans visit Washington and looking to participate in the annual Wreaths Across America ceremonies in December

To many Americans Taps conveys an important message through its 24 notes. When sounded at night the call has given a sense of security and safety to Soldiers and also signaled that another day in the service to their country was done and all was well. Because of the melodious and poignant nature of the melody it is no wonder that it was adopted as the final call at funerals. As Gustav Kobbe stated in an 1898 Century article: “Played slowly and expressively, it has a tender, touching, mournful character, in keeping with the fact that it is sounded not only for ‘lights out,’ but also over the soldier’s grave, be he general or private, so that as with ‘lights out’ night closes in upon the soldier’s day, so with the same call the curtain rolls down upon his life.

So today we commemorate the 1000th sounding of Taps at The National WWI Memorial Washington DC. I am grateful for the talents of our buglers who provide their talents each day to pay tribute to the 4.7 million Americans who served during WWI and to every veteran who has donned the uniform of our country.

It is a great day for the Doughboy Foundation. It is a testament that speaks to the strength of our musicians, of our staff, and of our public supporters, who make the Daily Taps program happen.

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