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Solemn Reminder: Vet has played bugle military call at RV park for over decade

Sun - 3/12/2017

By Rachel Twoguns

@RTwoguns

As the night draws on and the hour strikes 9, residents of Rancho Bonitos Co-Op RV Park can hear the sound of a live bugler playing Taps emanating throughout the park - a call often played at military funerals as well as other services.

Sitting on the patio of his RV, Troy Hanson said he has been playing Taps at the park every night, weather permitting, for about 15 years or so while he visits Yuma during the winter months from Colorado Springs. The park is located at 14555 S. Avenue 4E.

Unsurprisingly, Hanson caught the attention of residents, some of whom will venture out of their RVs every night while he plays and one whom he inspired to learn how to play Taps. Now, Hanson is teaching his neighbor Joe Cramer and spreading a tradition that has been waning in recent years, he said.

Hanson is also a member of Buglers Across America. Back in 2000, the organization was established when Congress passed legislation stating that veterans have a right to at least two uniformed military people to fold the flag and play Taps on a CD player at their funeral.

Other than a CD player, veterans' families may also hear a bugle that contains an electronic insert. On the Ceremonial Bugle website, it explained that this type of insert was developed "in order to provide a solemn visual image and as an alternative to the playing of a recorded version of Taps on a CD/cassette player."

The insert then enables an individual to "symbolically" play taps, the webpage read.

According to the organization's website, Bugles Across America was founded to take the legislation to have Taps played for veterans a step further.

"In recognition of the service these veterans have provided to their country, we felt that they each deserve a live rendition of Taps by a real bugler," the Buglers Across America "About Us" page stated.

Since its formation, Buglers Across America has been continuously seeking capable volunteers to provide the service to veterans and their families. The Buglers Across America website showed that the organization currently has over 4,000 bugler volunteers located in all 50 states and a growing number overseas.

"Now if anyone wants a live bugler generally you ask the person who is doing the service if they can call Buglers Across America and they have a bunch of us that have volunteered," Hanson explained.

"I think Joe here will probably be doing it one of these days when he gets his act together," Hanson added, chuckling.

Cramer became Hanson's student about a year ago when he approached the man after hearing him play.

"Joe came up here last year and he said, 'You know, I'd like to play Taps," Hanson said. "He got himself a bugle very similar to mine and I've been teaching him how."

Both men are veterans. Hanson served in 1954 and retired in 1979 as an Air Force lieutenant colonel and Cramer served from 1971 to 1977 in the National Guard in Washington.

Cramer presently comes down from Lynden, Washington, for the winter, he said. Back in Lynden, he noted that his son-in-law owns a funeral home.

"I just think it's an honor to be able to play," Cramer said.

Hanson noted that although Cramer has Bell's Palsy, which is a sudden weakness on one half of the face, he has been persevering in his quest to learn Taps.

"He's really got a lot of fortitude to push through and try to play this and he's coming right along," Hanson said, smiling.

Hanson's own journey playing the bugle began on Dec. 7, 1941.

"I was 6 years old and I was raised on a little farm in Wisconsin," Hanson said. "We were visiting my aunt in a little village near our farm and I remember standing by this big, old radio."

It was then that Hanson heard Franklin D. Roosevelt's announcement about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"At that point right after that my aunt came to me and said, 'Troy, I am going to give you a bugle and you need to take it home and learn how to play Taps,' and I did. We lived across the road from a cemetery and my father was a World War I vet and he was a member of the local American Legion."

At a young age, Hanson said he became a bugler, or one who plays the bugle.

"The bugler that they had when they gave honor services to vets and so on got drafted and my aunt seemed know this was going to happen," Hanson said. "After about a year with that bugle I taught myself to play Taps. I started playing Taps at the military honor services at the funerals."

Now, many decades later, Hanson is playing Taps at the park with Cramer on the very same bugle that his aunt gave him when he was a young boy. He surmises that the instrument is about 90 to 100 years old and said that it is a U.S. Regulation Bugle.

On the U.S. Regulations Bugle's website, it stated that the instrument has been used for years by members of the Armed Forces, the Boy Scouts of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) units around the world. The bugles are created by craftsmen and are made of the "finest quality brass," the webpage stated. Should it be handled with care, the instrument is made to last a lifetime.

"I have no idea where my aunt in this little farming village in Wisconsin ever came up with it," Hanson said.

Though he is able to play various instruments now, the veteran explained that prior to teaching Cramer how to play Taps, he used to teach Boy Scouts how to play the bugle so that they may earn a merit badge.

He said that while there are different rendition of Taps, he and Cramer are currently aiming for a certain variation as they play at the RV park.

"Echo Taps is what Joe and I are striving for, where one bugler starts and the other one comes in behind him," Hanson said. Currently, Hanson said that the men are to start about a block from each other as they strive to play this variation of Taps together.

"We look for different points in the park depending on which way the wind is from and which way we feel like going."

While Hanson said that Taps is typically played in the military at 10 p.m., the men play at 9 due to the fact that many of the RV park's residents are asleep by 10.

Comprised of about 21 spaces, Hanson said that many of the residents are both U.S. and Canadian veterans. Recently, Hanson's wife Betty said that those within the park honored him at their clubhouse.

"I don't feel that I deserve any honor for this," Hanson said. "I think I am fortunate that I have a God-given gift to be enabled to play instruments."

For more information on the bugle and Bugles Across America, visit www.buglesacrossamerica.org.

 
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