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Fewer veteran musicians available to honor the fallen with Taps

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Posted at 3:24 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 21:44:04-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For 45 years, Daniel Carranza left his trumpet in its case because he just didn't have the time to play.

Now retired, the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi bugler plays his horn with pride, but days such as Memorial Day pose an emotional conflict for him — especially as he sounds Taps, the "National Song of Remembrance" for fallen veterans.

"It's not something that I enjoy," Carranza admits. "It's just an honor that I perform."

Carranza is among a small group of military musicians who sound this solemn serenade at funerals and special military holidays, and that group is getting even smaller, as these veterans are aging and no longer able to play.

More often these days, battery-powered instruments are used to play a digital recording of Taps to honor the dead.

That's why Carranza performs the song live — to ensure every one of the song's 24 notes is delivered with reverence.

"It's probably the most sorrowful piece of music ever written," Carranza said. "Every note has its meaning."

The song's melancholy melody grips your heart.

It's both beautiful and haunting to family members; the last sound they hear before saying their final goodbyes.

Joann Lopez's father, WWII veteran Alfredo Callejo Sr., is buried at the Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery.

It was played when her father was buried, and it evokes strong emotions in her family.

"My brother, really — I mean, really, he tears up," she said.

Tony Luzio III also was at the cemetery for Monday's Memorial Day commemoration.

"It's a heartfelt song and it just … all the dedication that all these military servicemen and women put into it you know that song," he said.

His father, Tony Lucio Jr., is a Marine Corps veteran.

"You just feel it," he said.

Taps was first played during the American Civil War as a signal for Army troops to go to sleep. Soon after, it was played for the first time at a funeral for a soldier.

"It's something that they (surviving families) will remember for probably the rest of their lives," Carranza said.

Now, there's an effort underway by the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) to encourage younger musicians to step forward to keep the tradition of sounding Taps live.

If you can play a bugle, trumpet, or cornet, and you would like to honor veterans at funerals, you could earn money toward a college scholarship. The program is called "Taps for Tuition," and it's open to music students between grades 6-12 and post-secondary education students.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

Contact Veterans In Focus reporters: Greg Chandler at greg.chandler@kristv.com and Pat Simon at pat.simon@kristv.com