HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It's been fifteen years since Congress determined any honorably discharged veteran was entitled to receive military funeral honors, that included the playing of Taps.
However, it quickly became apparent there were not enough buglers available to provide this final service.
In a report, the Department of Defense noted there were only about 500 buglers in the entire US military, while veterans were dying at the rate of more than 1,800 a day.
In response, the DoD authorized the use of a digital bugle to render Taps at military funerals.
The alternative, while effective at providing a quality recording with the look of a live performance, proved disappointing to many veterans' families.
Determined no veteran should go without a live rendering of Taps at his or her funeral, Tom Day founded Bugles Across America in 2000. Families pay nothing for the service.
The national non-profit now has an estimated 5,500 bugler volunteers across the country.
There are 77 registered buglers in Alabama, including Sergeant First Class David Beier.
Beier serves as assistant state director of Bugles Across America.
Speaking about the importance of Taps, he says, "this is the last opportunity we have to say thank you and goodbye."
The services of these buglers are in high demand. Although Beier is based in North Alabama, he is frequently asked to travel outside the area to perform at military funerals.
"It's about that veteran...that gave the ultimate sacrifice," Beier says, adding, "to provide my talent to play those 24 notes is satisfaction enough for me."
Bugles Across America is always looking for new volunteers.
According to the organization's website, volunteers "can play a traditional bugle with no valves, or they can perform the ceremony on a Trumpet, Cornet, Flugelhorn, or a 1, 2 or 3 valved bugle."
There are no military or age requirements. However, volunteers must be able to play in a way that honors the veterans, their families and the burial detail.
Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to fill out an online application. An audition is also required.