'Ghost Bugler' honors veterans on Memorial Day
In a place where veterans rest, a soldier's lullaby echoes through a garden of headstones. Volunteer bugler Bob Chavanne has sounded taps more than 700 times.
"My mission out here is to play with perfection," says Chavanne, of Valley Stream. He is known as the "Ghost Bugler." "I want to let the soldiers from every war, every battle -- let them know that there is a bugler, their friend."
Chavanne's commitment to honoring fallen soldiers began 40 years ago with inspiration from the sacrifice made by his great-uncle. Army Pvt. Anthony LaRuffa was killed in combat during World War I; he was buried in France without relatives present and without military honors. At age 14, Chavanne learned to play taps to pay tribute to his great-uncle.
Since 2001, Chavanne has made it his mission to play taps at as many cemeteries and veterans' services as he can. "Every day should be Memorial Day," he says. "The veterans are deserving of that."
Once a month, Chavanne visits Long Island National Cemetery, where he plays patriotic songs for the 365,000 fallen heroes buried there. His bugling often brings comfort to the living who pay their respects at the cemetery.
Dorine Kenney's only child, Spc. Jacob Fletcher, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2003. "I just heard the bugle," says Kenney. "I didn't see anybody, and then he came out of the shadows. It was so moving."
Chavanne played for Nancy Fuentes' son, Spc. Daniel Fuentes, on the eighth anniversary of his death in April. "He doesn't have do this," says Fuentes. "He's doing it from the bottom of his heart and it's an honor for us."
For the past 14 years, Chavanne has been a member of the group Bugles Across America. The organization provides volunteer buglers who perform taps at military funerals nationwide.