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Local buglers play Taps to honor veterans at funerals

Steve Pederson was among the buglers playing Taps at Arlington National Cemetery in May, commemorating the song's 150th anniversary. (Submitted photo)

In mid-May, 200 buglers assembled at Arlington National Cemetery to begin playing a song that originated during the Civil War, the 24 notes of Taps.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the evocative melody.

Steve Pederson, who played trumpet since the fifth grade, was among the members of Buglers Across America at Arlington.

Pederson taught music in Park Rapids from 1979-80. His parents, Oscar and Pat Pederson, reside on Long Lake.

"I was inspired to get my lip back in shape after attending a Memorial Day service in Park Rapids a year ago," said Pederson, who now resides in Eden Prairie.

He joined Buglers Across America whose mission is to see that all veterans get a live bugler at their funeral. Currently, only 19 percent are honored at funerals with a musician, he said.

While at Arlington this month, Pederson played Taps at Bret Carlson's gravesite. The son of Dorothy and Carl Carlson of Park Rapids succumbed to brain cancer three years after serving in the war in Iraq.

The custom of playing Taps began during the Civil War, when the Union Army was camped along the James River, at Harrison's Landing in Virginia.

The brigade commander, Gen. Daniel Butterfield, didn't like the formal regulation call for "lights out," borrowed from the French. So with the aid of brigade bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton, he composed new music, which Norton played that night.

The haunting call, sounded after sunset in July, 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was even used by the Confederates. Taps was made an official bugle call after the war.

In January 2000, Congress passed legislation stating veterans have a right to at least two uniformed military to fold the flag and play Taps on a CD player, Pederson said.

"Bugles Across America was founded to take this a step further," he said. "In recognition of the services veterans have provided to their country, we felt every veteran deserved a live rendition of Taps played by a live bugler."

The Bugles Across America website, he explained,, was established to provide access to a database of real horn players to sound Taps.

Since its inception, BAA has played Taps at over 200,000 funerals and members are actively engaged in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Taps this year, he said.

That includes a sojourn at Harrison Landing in June, where it all began.