by Susan Mikula Campbell
This Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, buglers and trumpeters from across the nation will gather en masse to play "Taps," celebrating the 150th anniversary of the nation's song of remembrance.
The Rev. Bill Miles of the Salvation Army of the Tonawandas will represent Western New York at the 10 a.m. ceremony in what he expects to be the "most memorable" time he's ever played the military bugle call.
The massed sounding of "Taps" at the ending of the ceremony at Arlington's amphitheater will be directed by Col. Larry H. Lang, commander and conductor of the U.S. Air Force Band. From there, those playing will disperse to play "Taps" after Arlington's noon chimes at various graves, so visitors will be able to hear the sound no matter where they are at the cemetery.
Miles told local residents attending the Senior Breakfast at Niagara-Wheatfield High School last weekend that he will play at the grave of Stephen J. Sikora, the first person from the Tonawandas killed in World War II.
"When I play over those graves, I will be playing for you," he told the veterans in the audience to loud applause.
Miles said that to his knowledge, he is the only Western New York member of Bugles Across America, one of the sponsors of the Arlington event, to be participating.
One of the purposes of the event, aside from celebrating the anniversary is to draw attention to the fact that buglers are available to play at funerals, wreath laying ceremonies and memorial services. Check the Buglers Across America website.
"A lot of times, veterans don't get live taps," said Miles. "I've played all the way up to Youngstown and almost down to Jamestown. We have 57 registered buglers in Western New York ready to play 'Taps' anywhere."
At the Senior Breakfast, Miles displayed a 1918 Wurlitzer bugle that was a gift from his aunt in 1968 when he was 12 years old after his uncle had passed away. "That encouraged me to learn to play 'Taps'," Miles said.
However, he will be using his regular trumpet to play the haunting notes at Arlington.
Information on the history of "Taps" can be found at www.tapsbugler.com.