Group: Keep 'Taps' live at military funerals

Budget cuts to the state's Military Forces Honor Guard Units have imperiled salaries of ceremonial buglers, leaving "Taps" to be played instead by electronic music devices. Videojournalist: Amanda Voisard (Aug. 31, 2012)

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A group of philanthropists said Monday that they won't let funding cuts spell the end of "Taps" being sounded live at Long Island military funerals.

The Long Island businessmen, working with the nonprofit American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, plan to raise enough money to pay the buglers and trumpeters who have long contracted with the New York National Guard for funeral details.

The Guard's federal funding will be cut by 25 percent in the coming fiscal year, and its civilian Honor Guard budget can no longer afford to hire buglers for the remaining services that don't already use pre-recorded versions of "Taps."

"It's the last little drop of respect the country can give those who served," said Jeff Clyman, American Airpower's president. "Just those few notes remind us of a lot of things."

Supporters -- including real estate professionals Lawrence Kadish and Michael Polimeni, public relations executive Gary Lewi and contractor Jim Pratt -- acknowledge they can't directly replace federal funds. But they're hopeful they can work with a nonprofit to pay the musicians, who could keep a relationship with the Guard.

"That the government can't muster enough dollars to let that final send-off be handled appropriately is really troubling to me," said Pratt, whose Bay Shore company, Pratt Brothers Construction, helped expand Calverton National Cemetery.

New York National Guard spokesman Eric Durr said the organization is willing to work with the fundraisers to allow its primary Long Island bugler, Louis DiLeo, to keep playing "Taps" live at military funerals.

"If there's some way he can continue to perform this service at no cost to the taxpayer, I'm sure we'd be happy to take advantage of that," Durr said.

DiLeo, reached Monday after playing at four services, said the outpouring of support brought him to tears. He has been paid about $22,000 this year to perform at military funerals.

"It's humbling," the Seaford resident said. "In supporting live 'Taps,' they're showing they realize the importance of honoring veterans properly."

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