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John Lopez, Published October 16 2009

WF VFW does no ‘dishonor’

The issue of the young woman who was the bugler for the West Fargo Veterans of Foreign Wars post is a highly charged issue. The Forum took the West Fargo Post to task for their decision to stop having her play taps at funerals, and the editorial staff has that prerogative.

But the title of the editorial, “Digital taps is a dishonor,” is not accurate. When I was on active duty in the Army in the late 1980s-early 1990s, I was on honor guard stand- by duty at several different Army installations. We were on stand-by in case a veteran in the local area had a funeral and none of the local veterans organizations were available to be at that funeral.

We never had a bugler and had to rely on scratchy old tape recordings of taps to play if we had to attend a funeral. Although using recordings isn’t what we’d like to hear, Title 10 United States Code – Armed Forces, Chapter 75 subchapter II section 1491 provides for the use of recordings of taps at a veteran’s funeral. So the use of a recording is not a “dishonor” but is one way provided for by law to render final honors to a fallen veteran.

The old scratchy tape that we used to have has been replaced by a high-quality digital recording. The device that plays the digital recording of taps fits into the bell of a modified bugle. This provides the appearance of a bugler sounding taps, and allows any member of the honor guard to stand as the bugler.

The sound quality of this device is very good, and unless you were listening closely it isn’t easy to tell the difference. I am a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1223 in Dilworth. Several years ago we purchased a bugle that plays the digital recording of taps for use at funerals. Post 1223 and American Legion Post 21 from Moorhead have combined honor guards and currently have a live bugler.

I have participated on the honor guard for several funerals in the past, and I will be the first one to agree that a live bugler is the best way to sound taps. I attended the POW/MIA ceremony at the Fargo VA Hospital last month, and I heard Alexandria Davis play taps. She is a very good bugler and did a fine job. I have a feeling that another veterans organization in the area will want her services on their honor guard.

If we didn’t already have a live bugler I would certainly recommend her to our honor guard. The dismissal of Davis as the bugler for the West Fargo VFW is a separate issue from the use of a recording of taps at funerals. The reason for that decision rests with the West Fargo VFW.

I am not a member of that post, so I don’t know what the debate was on that issue, and I cannot express an opinion either way. The Forum editorial staff has every right to express an opinion on that issue, but calling the use of a digital recording a “dishonor” is wrong and shouldn’t have appeared in that editorial.

Lopez is past 9th District commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars.