Bugler plays at military funerals for 40 years

Funeral bugler

BRISTOL, Va. - It is a tradition that is slowly fading away, but one bugler will not let it die on his watch.

Bugler Tom Johnson tells News 5 he missed being drafted into the war by seven days and was the only member of his family who did not serve in the military, but he still wanted to give back to those who gave their lives by honoring them with the sound of music.

"It's an honor and a privileged, I consider it that," said Johnson.

Johnson discovered his musical talent when he was a child.

"I started playing trumpet when I was 10 years old and that's been 46 years ago," said Johnson.

However, he is not your average, every-day trumpet player. He has played ‘Taps' for military funerals since he was a senior in high school nearly 40 years ago. "They would call if they required a bugler and I would usually walk over and play the ceremony," said Johnson.

He showed us the trumpet he has played since his senior year; he has played nearly 200 veteran funerals with it. "I played for the last surviving veteran of the Spanish-American War in 1976," said Johnson.

Johnson says he thinks the art of playing the bugle is dying along with the veterans. "They use a recording, which is okay, but not nearly as honorable as the live [performance]," he explained.

Johnson told us how important the music is to the families involved. "It's a great honor for the family and always evokes a lot of great emotion," he said. "It's always well appreciated."

He says he will keep doing it as long as he is able. "This is a way I can give back and honor the veterans for their service," said Johnson.

Johnson tells us he is hopeful the tradition will continue with future generations.

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