- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) - Most people are familiar with “Taps” - the song played at every military funeral.

But bugler Jari Villanueva - who joined the Air Force in 1985 to become a member of its band and retired in 2008 - knows a lot more about that song, and other Civil War field music.

Villanueva was in Danville on May 18 to pass that information along as part of the Danville Historical Society’s Civil War sesquicentennial program.

A small group of people gathered at the Danville-Pittsylvania County Veterans Memorial at Dan Daniel Memorial Park to hear Villanueva play an assortment of various bugles and explain their origins.

Music has always been a big part of the military, Villanueva said. When soldiers went for training, it wasn’t all about learning how to march or fire a weapon - it was about learning the 35-50 bugle tunes that would lead them through their day and through battles.

Taps was first called “Extinguish Lights” and was the order that rang out across campsites when it was time to go to sleep - usually at about 8:30 p.m., Villanueva said.

The song was first used as a farewell to dead soldiers in 1862; traditionally, 21 cannon balls would be fired to mark the burials of those lost in combat, but there simply wasn’t time for that - and, Villanueva said, they were surrounded by the enemy army and giving away their position would have been foolish. Over time, it has become the military’s song for the end of the day as well as a respectful farewell to members of the military who have died.

Music moved soldiers through camp life, with songs signaling when to get up, feed the horses (even the horses got to know that song and got excited when they heard it, Villanueva said), eat meals - and to guide their movements during battle.

There is a song for moving to the right, another for moving to the left, one for retreating and another for moving forward. Again, horses learned the music too and would often move in the direction ordered without being prompted by their riders.

There was even a song that ordered soldier to lie down on the battlefield, so they wouldn’t get hit by their own company’s canon fire.

Villanueva is considered the country’s foremost expert on military bugle calls, and in 2007 was the first active duty military bugler to be inducted into the Buglers Hall of Fame.

During his career he has participated in more than 5,000 ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, where he also arranged for a display highlighting the history of the military bugler. Villanueva, as part of that project, was able to move the bugle used at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral from the Smithsonian to Arlington, where it is part of the display.

Villanueva said he continues to serve at military funerals, despite his retirement.

For the past seven years, he has been a lieutenant colonel in the Maryland National Guard, with responsibility for overseeing about 300 military funerals a month with a staff of about 70 buglers.

“It’s an honor to do that job,” Villanueva said.

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Information from: Danville Register & Bee, http://www.registerbee.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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