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'It's an honor to serve'

Bothered that 'Taps' was played by machines at veterans' funerals, Master Sgt. Ron Glazer learned the tune himself.

Bothered that 'Taps' was played by machines at veterans' funerals, Master Sgt. Ron Glazer learned the tune himself.

February 26, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG - When Master Sgt. Ron Glazer learned the Air Force bought a small stereo and a CD of "Taps" to be played at local veterans' funerals, he was - to use his own word - appalled.

"Personally appalled at the idea that we would not be giving our fallen comrades an appropriate and proper funeral with a bugler, I made a decision," Glazer wrote in an article published on the Web site, www.buglesacrossamerica.org.

So a couple of years ago, Glazer paid $120 for a used, tarnished bugle on eBay and was determined to learn to play the song. Since then, he's become more proficient at the 24-note song and has played the haunting anthem at three funerals and two Memorial Day services.

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Glazer, 35, of Hagerstown, is a full-time member of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg.

He fulfilled his dream of joining an honor guard in April 2001, and bought the bugle the next month. In doing so, Glazer became part of a small group of bugle players.

There apparently are not a lot of people willing or talented enough to play the bugle. At the memorial service last year for USS Cole victim Patrick Howard Roy, a cassette tape of "Taps" was played.

So dire is the situation, the Pentagon is considering whether to install a small electronic device inside a bugle that would play "Taps." An honor guard member would pose with the horn, pretending to play, Glazer said.

"I don't see dignity in playing a tape or CD," Glazer said Tuesday.

Not only can Glazer and his horn provide the honor of "Taps" being played, his story has a denouement. The Wisconsin-based Getzen Co., which has ceased making bugles, restored Glazer's instrument for free.

Glazer grins when he tells the tale, and when he carefully hands over his pristine bugle, which resembles a trumpet but has just one valve, whereas a trumpet has three.

To restore the bugle, workers at Getzen took off the old lacquer, "charged" the metal and applied a new brass finish, Glazer said. Made in the 1960s, the bugle was intended to be used by drum and bugle corps.

The restored model bears little resemblance to the one Glazer bought on the Internet. When Glazer first got it back in the mail after restoration, he said, he checked the serial number to be sure it was the same instrument.

A more somber Glazer discussed funerals.

At a veteran's funeral, honor guard pallbearers carry a casket from the hearse to its final resting place. After "Taps" is played, a 21-volley gun salute is performed and the American flag draped over the coffin is folded and given to a member of the veteran's family, Glazer said.

At a typical funeral, about 10 honor guard members are present. As few as three can serve on the detail, in which case only the flag-folding ceremony would be done, Glazer said.

"Taps" is a solemn song and Glazer said that while he plays, he is careful to focus straight ahead or on his horn.

"If I look at someone I'll start crying," he said. "I have to fight back my tears."

After a funeral, Glazer said he approaches the veteran's family, thanking them for the honor of playing.

"They always say, 'It was beautiful' or 'You don't know how much it meant to us,'" Glazer said.

Explaining why he volunteered to serve on the honor guard, Glazer spoke of the veterans who have come before him.

"It's an honor to serve those who have served," he said.

Glazer also said he enjoys being in full uniform, and being among the public.

Not just anyone can become an honor guard member. A 40-hour training course is required, as is additional quarterly training, Glazer said.

Glazer's training was in the form of a junior high school French horn player.

A Desert Storm veteran, Glazer did a stint with the Maryland Army National Guard for a year in 1995 before joining the West Virginia Air National Guard. He first joined the military immediately after high school, serving five years in the U.S. Army.

Glazer and his wife Carol have two sons, Brandon, 11, and Ron Jr., 13.

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