WASHINGTON - The heavy rain stopped and the heavens opened up with brilliant, warm sunshine after days of constant rain in April 2009. Dodging small pools of water, the crowd approached the nurse's statue at the south end of the memorial. Chatting quietly as they approached, three striking figures, wearing blue military style uniforms came into view.
A woman bookended by two men turned and faced the statue. She slowly raised a white, gloved hand into a salute. The men each raised a shiny bugle to their lips and after a short, reverent moment of silence, began to play "Taps".
A small crowd gathered around them. Some cried as they listened. Others placed their hands over their hearts and closed their eyes. As the last of the notes trailed off into the air, a few people broke out into applause. Some just turned and walked away as silently as they approached. Still others, curious about what they had just witnessed approached them to ask what the occasion was.
Tom Day and his partners Larry Wiseman and Susan D. Wiseman graciously chatted with the people and explained that they were members of Bugles Across America. Day started BAA in 2000 to ensure that a live in-person bugler would be available to play taps at every military funeral.
"There really is no need to have your veteran's dignity stolen by a fake Taps," says Day. As streams of veterans killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan came home in the early 2000s, there weren't enough buglers to handle their funerals and the other veterans already stateside requiring services.
So, the fake method became commonplace - common but not acceptable.
"It's the final send off for a loved one and I think it's extremely important that a live bugler perform that," says Air Force Master Sgt. David Richards, who was stationed at the Pentagon at the time.
Upset by the propagation of boom boxes playing Taps - many of which malfunctioned at services - Day started the organization, which today, has grown from one bugler 12 years ago to 7,500. They're spread out in all 50 states and overseas. He says there's no substitute for live taps.
"The cause and effect of playing Taps and the 24 notes live is the expression on a families face - a young child, a wife a brother, sister or relative of that veteran," he says.
When the trio performed at Arlington Cemetery and other veterans memorials, the scene was the same. They played, people crowded around and they cried.
"Not only does it make the hair on the back of my next stand up, but it gives me that goose-bump feeling, so it really hits home," says Richards.
"When it's in person like that, it's a little more emotional, a little more personal and little more special," says Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Magnus.
The U.S. Navy Band produced a video of the bugle call taps for Memorial Day
To date in 2012, Day and his companions have been recognized by the Military Officer's Association of America and numerous other organizations for their work, for which the requests continue to grow. Rain drops streaked down the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial as visitors began to file down the stone pathway in front of the wall bearing more than 58,000 names.
Standing in front of the three soldiers depicted in the Frederick Hart sculpture at the back of the Memorial on that day in 2009, they played again and more people came, and more people cried. usan Wiseman snapped off a salute at the end of the tribute, and she began telling the story of how her cousin's death in Vietnam when she was a teenager affected her to the core.
Since then, she's dedicated a part of her life to comforting the families of veterans through her music.
"I never realized how much of an effect that had on me until 38 years later when I stood at this wall and sang the song he inspired for the 25th anniversary of the wall," she says. But the story doesn't end there for her and her husband Larry.
"We're parents of a wounded soldier in Iraq in 2007 and we've just always had a burden our military," he says.
The labor of love continues for BAA as well, because sadly, some veterans are still missing out on what's this organization says is rightfully theirs. But the goal for the organization is to make sure that "from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters," that when the time comes, every honorably discharged veteran will get their "last full measure of devotion".
As the trio packed up their horns and prepared to move on that day, the dark clouds rolled in again and soon drops of rain would began to fall, joining the tears of those still standing at the wall.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
Conn. zoo officials don't know how this baby came to be born.
More cursing happens in Maryland than across the Potomac River.
Emma Watson revels in her post-"Potter" freedom at Cannes.
An NFL player relieves himself of his feelings toward the IRS.