It's music to our ears that some Long Island businessmen stepped up to maintain the sound of "Taps" played live at local funerals for veterans.
Planned federal cuts to the New York National Guard budget had endangered the practice starting in October. That funding has just been restored, although it typically isn't enough to cover all eligible funerals.
But veterans' families have another option: Bugles Across America is a nonprofit organization with 8,000 volunteer buglers and a website that allows families to request someone to play for an upcoming funeral.
The group's players -- they use bugles, trumpets and similar brass instruments -- have been auditioned, know how they're expected to dress, and will play "Taps" for any veteran's funeral free of charge. Founder Tom J. Day says the group's volunteers are already playing at funerals on Long Island when asked.
Uncle Sam hasn't always paid for someone to play these 24 mournful notes. During and after World War II, Day says, the task was mostly performed by Boy Scouts. But about a decade ago, to honor the passing World War II generation, the government started paying for funeral honors, including live "Taps" if a bugler is available. Few are and so, often, a bugle with a recording inside is used instead.
But a live rendition can add a special note of poignance and dignity. In an age of belt-tightening, it's nice to know that, thanks to some public-spirited Americans, veterans can still get their due.