by Dave Warner

This afternoon at 3 pm, Oscar Stivala decided that he would participate in the Taps Across America ceremony.

It all started, when Paricia Konyha was 14 and she attended a military honors funeral where her farther, an Air Force veteran, was serving as part of an honor guard team firing a three-volley salute.

When taps was sounded towards the conclusion of the graveside service, there wasn’t a bugler available, so a cassette tape was used instead. As the 24 notes played on, the sound began to warble, and then it suddenly stopped altogether.

Konyha was a saxophonist in her middle school band at the time, and she felt terrible for the family.

A few months later, she purchased a $25 garage sale trumpet and began learning taps. When she hit 16, she was volunteering to play the song at funerals.

Today, Konyha, now 44, found a way to honor America’s war heroes and veterans while maintaining social distancing guidelines. She helped to organize more than 2,500 trumpet and bugle players from across the country to play taps, all at the same time.

“Myself and Jari Villanueva from Baltimore, Maryland, got together and said ‘Hey, why don’t we get as many buglers as we can to go out on their front porch, or their backyard, or play at a local cemetery by themselves,'” Konyha said. “And just play taps for Memorial Day since nobody else is having any ceremonies.”

And just like that, Stivala felt that he had to be part of it. “My wife told me about this as she had seen it on Facebook, and because we cannot do it the way we usually do in the park, we have to do it individually.”

Stivala said that he has never been in war, but was almost drafted for Vietnam in 1967. “I was new in town and the local board said no, you cannot go because we need you here in Little Falls,” he said.

He said that many times, he’s felt like he resented what happened. But, when he has talked to those who went, “they told me, you didn’t want to be there.”

Stivala has been playing taps for as long as he can remember, including growing up in Argentina. “Taps is the same all over the world. When I was in high school, they would pick me to play taps. In Argentina, it’s called ‘silencio’. It means silence.”

“I’ve always sympathized with Veterans, but especially the ones who never made it,” he said.

Joanne Marotti, his neighbor across the street, accompanied Stivala with her flute, echoing the notes of taps while he played.