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Buglers Honor World War I Veterans With Daily Taps at National Memorial

Buglers Honor World War I Veterans With Daily Taps at National Memorial

Feb. 20, 2024 | By Joseph Clark , DOD News 

As the sound of Taps pierced the cool evening air at the National World War I Memorial in Washington this week, the somber bugle call became yet another reminder of Americans’ unwavering resolve to honor those who have served.    

Since May 2021, buglers have played the 24 notes each day without fail at 5 p.m. in tribute to the 4.7 million Americans who served and 116,516 who lost their lives in what came to be known as the Great War. 

As the sun began to set on Monday, Taps echoed for the 1,000th time across the 1.76-acre memorial that lies just steps from the White House, marking a significant milestone for what organizers say is a living tribute for those who served.  

“There is no one left from that war,” said Jari Villanueva, executive director of The Doughboy Foundation, the nonprofit that organizes daily Taps at the memorial.   

“We represent all those veterans who aren’t here to speak for themselves,” he said. “We do it through those 24 notes of taps. It’s a bugle call that every military member knows. They hear it their very first night of basic training to the end of their military career and afterwards.” 

The Doughboy Foundation was created to work alongside the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, a 12-member panel authorized by Congress in 2013 to establish a national memorial honoring those who served in World War I. 

Since the memorial opened in April 2021, The Doughboy Foundation has continued its mission of stewardship for the memorial and remembrance of those who served in the war.  

The foundation partners with the nonprofit Taps for Veterans to make the daily playing of Taps at the memorial a reality.  

Buglers from all walks of life have lent their time and talents over the years to make the daily tribute a reality.  

Villanueva said volunteers range from active-duty and retired service members to Grammy-winning musicians.  

“They’re really made up of fine people who understand the mission and use that time to honor those Americans,” he said. “It’s really heartwarming to me to know that they know what this is all about.” 

Kevin Paul, who played taps at the memorial on Monday, is one of those musicians who has helped organize the Daily Taps Program.  

Paul, an active-duty Army musician stationed in Washington, estimates that he has sounded the bugle at the World War I memorial well over 100 evenings since the program began and thousands of times throughout his career.  

Still, he said the sound of Taps never gets old.  

“Those 24 notes are very meaningful,” he said.  

“It means more than just us,” he said, referring to his fellow musicians. “It’s something greater than ourselves. It’s a special thing to perform it, any time I perform it.” 

While intimately familiar for those who have served in uniform, the somber bugle call also has special meaning for many who have not. 

Villanueva and Paul said the daily ritual brings the memorial to life, often sparking conversation between the musicians, who dress in World War I era uniforms for their performance, and passersby.  

“They are always approached by people who come up and ask them ‘What’s the deal with the uniform? What are you doing?’ And they will talk to them about who they represent and why they are there,” he said.  

Those impromptu connections serve not only as an opportunity to spread awareness and education about the war and those who served, but a chance for two strangers to briefly unite in their remembrance.  

It is a time for reflection on how the war shaped the generations that came before. 

The Rev. James DiPerri, a Catholic priest from Boston, happened upon Monday’s performance at the memorial while visiting Washington. 

He said he grew up with World War I stories told by his grandfather and a neighbor, who had both served in the war. DiPerri said, for him, Monday’s bugle call served as remembrance of the sacrifices made by that generation. 

“War transforms societies, for better or worse,” he said. “It’s a reality, regretfully. For those that endured the war, it would forever change the structure of the community and the world.” 

Hannah Haine, a Washington local, said she was drawn to the memorial when she saw musicians clad in World War I uniforms warming up for Monday’s commemoration which included performances of the national anthem and ceremonial music before the sounding of taps.  

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s interesting.”  

Spotlight: Commemorating World War I

She said she had been to the World War I memorial for taps once before and made it a point to stay for Monday’s performance after learning that it was the 1,000th.  

“I think it’s important to honor our history and not forget it,” she said.


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