A year ago, with the coronavirus pandemic raging and Memorial Daycelebrations put on hold, CBS News’ Steve Hartman came to the American people with a musical request. The On The Road correspondent suggested a new way to honor fallen servicemen and women: a socially distanced, nationwide performance of “Taps.”
From sea to shining sea, Americans of all ages and skill levels performed the mournful bugle call in unison. On electric guitars, violins, flutes, and of course, trumpets.
The idea for a “Taps” performance of this kind had been ruminating in Hartman’s mind for the better part of a decade, ever since he profiled retired United States Air Force Master Sergeant Don Brittain, who sounded “Taps” on his balcony every day at sunset.
At the time, Hartman remembers thinking, “Wow. Why can’t this happen all over the country?”
Years later, when Covid-19 canceled traditional Memorial Day celebrations, it dawned on him: maybe people could play “Taps” on their front porches as a way to honor the fallen from home.
Hartman brought his idea to retired Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva, who has a group called Taps for Veterans. Villanueva laughed; he had had the same thought. And Taps Across America was born.
“The response blew me away. Our best guess is about 20,000 musicians played ‘Taps,'” Hartman tells Southern Living. “Everyone from a musician with the New York Philharmonic to a kid who just learned that day. On mountain tops, in deserts, but mostly in front yards.”
This Memorial Day, Taps Across America is back. Even with the pandemic ebbing, Hartman believes this year will be even bigger than the last.
Everyone who can sound the 24-note tune is invited to participate. Instruments of all kinds are welcome, though Hartman discourages the kazoo because “it doesn’t seem very reverent.”
“As long as it’s played with heart,” he adds.
Participants will play on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 3 p.m. in their local time zone. Every Lowe’s location will also have a bugler sounding “Taps.”
You can register for Taps Across America here, though it’s not required. Hartman encourages participants to record and submit their sounding of “Taps.” Select videos will be shown during CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell on Tuesday, June 1.
“Too often, lately, Memorial Day has come to mean hamburgers and hot dogs,” Hartman says. “This is a way without ever leaving your home to be reminded why we celebrate.”