Cyber-funeral
April 29, 2006 10:12 PM   Subscribe

What's worse than not having enough soldiers to fight your war? Not enough buglers to play "taps" at their funerals. Good thing the military has come up with a solution. It's the thought that counts, I guess.
posted by Balisong (41 comments total)
 
This has been a problem for a very long time, and not just with buglers -- the honor guard has these problems as well. Folks that are in the military just don't feel like volunteering for it. There is so much other crap that get piled up on them at thier regualr job. Marching, doing ceremonies etc, etc.... it's not that they can't get enough buglers -- they can't get enough people to properly honor the dead (honor guard) -- because it's considered an additional duty. So you have to do all your other work in addition to doing honor guard duty.

Pomp and circumstance for the common military wo/man is a thing of the past -- most commanders could give a shit about them. But a retirement ceremony or a change of command -- you better believe that everybody ++ their grandmother will be there. Assholes.

I'm not talking about the honor guards like the AF honor guard, I'm talking about the smaller honor guards that do most of the funerals.
posted by the giant pill at 10:31 PM on April 29, 2006


After the outcry over Rumsfeld over the auto sign machines on military death letters, I don't see how this is putting their best, most "human" foot forward.
posted by Balisong at 10:33 PM on April 29, 2006


I am not aware that there are not enough horn players to play at funerals.

Most horn players I've known are under employed in that field and might stoop to making a few bucks in the funeral trade. They are not hard to find.

Or maybe people running such funerals are just God-awful cheap.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:38 PM on April 29, 2006


From the link: The Ceremonial Bugle was introduced so that veterans' families have a choice on how Taps will be sounded when a live bugler is not available for a military funeral. The families may elect either a CD/cassette version or the Ceremonial Bugle.

Wow! CD OR cassette! Because in America, it's all about freedom of choice.

On a more serious note, during WWI or WWII, did they have an honor guard for everybody?
posted by c13 at 10:40 PM on April 29, 2006


As an armchair general, I've consumed my fair share of ceremonial Bugles. I bow my head in drunken reverence.
posted by furtive at 10:57 PM on April 29, 2006


Umm, Balisong, did you even read your own link?
This clearly has more to do with the "1,800 individuals who served in the armed forces, many from World War II, die each day." than it does with Iraq.

I think the electronic bugle is better than nothing, but I think Tom Day is doing a better thing.

MonkeySaltedNuts -

In the article, they reference the fact that most military funerals are held during the week, when non-military bugle players are likely to be working and so not available to play.
posted by madajb at 11:12 PM on April 29, 2006


I did read my own link. I had never heard that this was a problem before (the war).
I have heard live "taps" probably 2000 times in my life, along with "Silver Taps" which is like taps-in-a-round about 40 times.
Some of them were god-awful. But I still think it's better than someone pushing a button on a recorder. Smoke and mirrors used to be derided. Now it's damn near expected.
posted by Balisong at 11:20 PM on April 29, 2006


I did read my own link. I had never heard that this was a problem before (the war).

Actually, it was, I remember hearing about this several years ago.
posted by kindall at 11:23 PM on April 29, 2006


#madajb: In the article, they reference the fact that most military funerals are held during the week, when non-military bugle players are likely to be working

I think the problem is that traditionally most taps players are unpaid. If a horn player asked his boss if he could have an unpaid hour off to play at a funeral, many bosses would accede. However such players don't want to lose an hour's wage and most bosses don't want to subsidise such events.

Then again I'm sure there are many retired horn players especially in Florida. I'm sure some of them would like to make a few bucks for a trivial gig.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:30 PM on April 29, 2006


How is this 'discreet?' It obvious theres someting in that trumpet. Not to mention the sound out of a battery powered 1.5" or so speaker is nothing like what the sound a real horn makes. Just phase it out if they can't pay for it.

When they run out of clergy they'll just use this guy.
posted by skallas at 11:47 PM on April 29, 2006


Sort of a double post.. just sayin'.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:49 PM on April 29, 2006


NPR covered this several times: November, 2002; September, 2003; and November, 2003.

As I recall, the general consensus was that it appeared and sounded very nice, and was far better than having no bugler at all.
posted by stefanie at 1:48 AM on April 30, 2006


Can I get this thing to play Miles Davis?
posted by strawberryviagra at 2:59 AM on April 30, 2006


Yeah, this has been a problem for a while with both WWII and now Korean Vets dropping like flies the problem gets worse each year. (now let me translate for balisong: It ain't always about Bush.)
posted by Gungho at 5:52 AM on April 30, 2006


This is not news. The military has used these fake bugles for over ten years. It has nothing to do with the lack of soldiers who want the duty (it pays fairly well), but everything to do with the number of WWII and Korea veterans who die daily.

Most families can't tell the difference. You'd think they could, but most can't. At this point, I can usually tell the difference between canned Taps and the real thing (there's a fake warble right in the middle that makes it sound live--really), but it never fails...right after Taps is played, someone will turn to another mourner and say, "Well, that was the real thing."

Still, if having the real thing is important, there is a volunteer group called Bugles Across America who will come, if requested, and play Taps at a veteran's funeral for free.
posted by ColdChef at 5:56 AM on April 30, 2006


Oh, and when they have to resort to the boombox, yeah...it looks shitty.
posted by ColdChef at 5:58 AM on April 30, 2006


I yearn for the day when we can have robotic buglers lamenting the loss of our fallen robot soldiers.
posted by crunchland at 6:15 AM on April 30, 2006


NPR covered this several times: November, 2002; September, 2003; and November, 2003.

Yeah. I didn't find out on NPR, but I definitely heard about this a long time ago.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:20 AM on April 30, 2006


Sort of a double post.. just sayin'.

Not sort of--it's a flat out double post. I remember reading about this here. When did people stop searching to see if a topic had been the subject of a previous post ?
posted by y2karl at 6:26 AM on April 30, 2006


I remember the fine film From Here to Eternity, in which Montgomery Clift (the actor) plays taps, using only the mouthpiece...but then, taps is ceremonial and we have to ask if it is better to preserve the idea of the ceremony or simply dispense with it. Try this. When we think of the dead in WWI, we imagine the fields of Flanders, the masses of crosses marking the dead soldiers. The reality: a mass burial! the crosses are put up to give the impression of carefully buried individuals, with the names of each on a cross.

Technology replaces much of what we formerly did or used. I
posted by Postroad at 7:25 AM on April 30, 2006


Postroad : "Technology replaces much of what we formerly did or used. I"

Unfortunately, technology does not yet replace the finishing of sentences. That is a feature that
posted by Bugbread at 7:31 AM on April 30, 2006


won't be implemented until after the Singularity.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 AM on April 30, 2006


I was a member of one of those 'smaller honor guards that do all the funerals' when I first joined the Navy. Contrary to some of the dubious knowledge being thrown around here, it wasn't voluntary. Also - that stuff takes a certain amount of training and practice... you don't just go shuck a uniform on someone and say "You're doing the funerals today!!"

Now for what I thougt was obvious... the bugle dude. Ummm - you actually HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO PLAY IT. Some of you talk like we can all just pick up a trumpet and go at it. There's not THAT many band-geeks in the military. (well... there's some). If a bugler isn't available - bring on the electronic version!!

And lets leave the most irritating for last, courtesy of BigPill... "Pomp and circumstance for the common military wo/man is a thing of the past -- most commanders could give a shit about them" How the f*cK do you know how 'most military commanders' feel about pomp and circumstance?? Save the generalizations for a topic you actually know something about. In all my time in the Navy, I've never met a CO who DIDN'T have the utmost respect for p&c, in ALL situations.
posted by matty at 8:11 AM on April 30, 2006


We ran into this problem when my grandfather passed away last year. Initially we were told that we would have to settle for the cassette recording, but at the last minute a bugler was found. I had no problem maintaining my composure until they played Taps, folded up the flag and handed it to my mom. It was a really emotional moment and I feel bad for the families that have to miss out on it.
posted by jrossi4r at 8:48 AM on April 30, 2006


I think this is in bad taste, but it's not really fodder for all you I HAVE BUSH people.

PS: I also think going to Central Park for a classical concert you wind up hearing over loudspeakers is stupid...whatever...
posted by ParisParamus at 9:15 AM on April 30, 2006


HATE
posted by ParisParamus at 9:16 AM on April 30, 2006


I HAVE BUSH
posted by ludwig_van at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2006


Unpaid? When I was in high school I played "Taps" for probably a dozen military funerals and was paid $25 each time. My dad is a high school band teacher and a trumpet player himself, and whenever somebody called in with a request he just passed it on to me. If I had the connections where I live now and -- more importantly -- still had a flexible schedule, I'd probably still be doing it.

(Although I suspect there's no shortage here -- I'm sure there are enough needy trumpet-playing undergrads on campus and that a lot of requests get sent to the music dept.)
posted by aaronetc at 9:46 AM on April 30, 2006


I HAVE BUSH
posted by ParisParamus at 9:15 AM PST on April 30

posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:54 AM on April 30, 2006


Ummm - you actually HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO PLAY IT.

Indeed. That French Foreign Legion video that's making the rounds has a soldier bugling who, you know, can't.

I was at a Korean War veteran's funeral last year -- the experience was very like jrossi4r's. The honor guard was mixed -- not all Army, not all active duty. I didn't get to ask but I think the bugler was from a military academy.

The most intense moment was when they handed the flag to his widow. The deliberate, formal actions gave it much power.

As to the history, Congress authorized "artificial" music at funerals in 1999 (P.L. 106-65). The law authorized changes including reducing the standard from an "honor guard" to a "funeral honors detail", the minimum from three to two, requiring only one of the detail to be active duty from the decedent's military branch, the use of audio equipment to play "Taps", expanded the use of the National Guard and Reserves (including the Individual Ready Reserve) to be assigned funeral duties, specified federal logistical and financial (and career-points) support for persons so assigned, and gave the SECDEF authority to waive any part of the law (such as the minimum requirements) during time of war or other military need at his discretion.

Now, it's entirely possible that Rumsfeld has done such a waiver (I'm not looking that up) which has made it still harder to get buglers and otherwise fill out honor details, but the problem is directly related to the enormous military cohort who served in World War II, which is now aged 80-100.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2006


I love it. A bogus bugle. Just the thing to honour the dead from a bogus war.
posted by Decani at 11:29 AM on April 30, 2006


Decani : "Just the thing to honour the dead from a bogus war."

I'm pretty sure World War II was a real war.
posted by Bugbread at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2006


Yeah but imagine the debacle when some faux-bugler hits the wrong button and the mourners get a rousing rendition of Reveille instead! (I know, different setting on the insert, you'd have to be a true moran, etc. Well, people are truly moranic. Hell, this is the mistake I would probably end up making, to my own utterly amazed horror.) Heh.
posted by zoinks at 1:33 PM on April 30, 2006


I'm pretty sure World War II was a real war.

Well, yeah. I'll give you that one.
posted by Decani at 1:57 PM on April 30, 2006


Yeah well in the 23rd century when Mr Spock dies, Scotty whips out the real bagpipes. Or was there some kind of device in there?
posted by mikojava at 4:33 PM on April 30, 2006


Yeah, but keep in mind that Scotty was in charge of playing the bagpipes for everyone in the Federation. He only did engineering work to fill the time between playing bagpipes at the funerals of all the redshirts.
posted by Bugbread at 5:04 PM on April 30, 2006


This has nothing to do with Iraq. Nothing. I went to one military funeral, in 2001 or 2002, before the U.S. even invaded Iraq, where this was done. And there aren't enough retired buglers in Florida, either—the funeral in question was here.
posted by oaf at 6:46 PM on April 30, 2006


You'd have to be a real moran moron to play reveille on a bugle containing only a recording of taps. That or an actual bugler.
posted by jacalata at 9:09 PM on April 30, 2006


Like most orchestral instruments, brass instruments can be affected by the surrounding temperature. On a cold or wet day, a funeral bugler playing "Taps" might well crack a note or two.

Myself, I'd rather have live music, flaws and all-- but not every family might appreciate the break in mood.

I'm not arguing for synthetic bugling, or sinister perfection, or the replacement of brass players with automata (appealing as that might be to some conductors.) Just saying that I guess it's good that people have a choice, and that recorded "Taps" are better than no "Taps" at all.

At my funeral, I want a kazoo.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:35 AM on May 1, 2006


I'm gonna call bullshit. more WW2 veterans died in the 70s and 80s than have died in the last few years.

Are you people really suggesting that the median life expectancy of a WW2 veteran is 80?!?
or early 70s for Korea vets

anything else would suggest that most veterans of those wars died decades ago.
posted by Megafly at 4:41 PM on May 1, 2006


Are you people really suggesting that the median life expectancy of a WW2 veteran is 80?!?
or early 70s for Korea vets


Well, admittedly my sample size is pretty small, but I have five uncles, most of whom (I want to say all but am not 100% sure) served in either WWII or Korea, and the two who have died were well into their eighties when they died, within six months of each other, a couple years ago. The others are of course are still alive and the youngest is well into his seventies.

My theory is that if you survived the war, it meant you were made of pretty stern stuff and were likely to become quite an old cranky bastard.
posted by kindall at 8:22 PM on May 1, 2006


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