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Wappingers Falls Bugle Player Makes Honoring Veterans Her Life's Mission

Bugler Dani Masterson of Wappingers Falls has played Taps at thousands of ceremonies, most of them funerals for veterans. Shown playing at Arlington National Cemetery, she was recently recognized by the Exchange Club of Southern Dutchess. Photo Credit: Contributed
Bugler Dani Masterson poses with Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, a World War II vet and the chancellor of the University of Richmond, in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Provided

WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. – Wappingers Falls resident Dani Masterson is on a mission.

Masterson, who believes that no military veteran should have to have “canned” music at his or her funeral, has played “Taps” on her bugle at thousands of events over the past 30 years.

So far, she has provided that dignified final salute at ceremonies in 23 states, has six more on her schedule, and hopes to travel to all 50 someday.

She has played at every place from the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and she does all this completely at her own expense.

“I feel it's the last nicest thing that I can do for someone," Masterson said. "These are the times when I feel my service is most pure. I don't do this to receive a pat on the back or even a thank you. I do it to serve. I'm personally grateful because it has given me a place to serve those who have served.”

Masterson’s work was recognized recently by the Exchange Club of Southern Dutchess, which raised $200 to help her defray traveling expenses.

Having started playing with a Hudson Valley drum and bugle corps at age 10, she now is the state's director of Bugles Across America.

The nonprofit group was founded in 2000 by Tom Day after Congress passed legislation stating that veterans had the right to at least two uniformed military people at their services to fold the flag and play Taps – on a CD player.

Day felt that veterans deserved a live rendition of Taps by a real bugler.

Now the organization has more than 4,000 volunteer buglers who serve in every state in the nation.

According to the group, the Department of Veterans Affairs expects more than 500,000 veterans to die every year for the next seven years. Because of that, the group said, BAA is always recruiting new volunteers.

For more information about BAA, click here.

Masterson is also one of the National Buglers for the “Spirit of ’45,” an alliance of organizations that works to preserve and honor the legacy of World War II veterans.

For more about this group, click here.

When not traveling around, she is a special effects make-up artist for a private tactical training center in Carmel. (But that's another story.)

Taps itself actually has a Putnam County connection. Credited by some historians with writing it was Daniel Adams Butterfield, a Union general during the Civil War, New York businessman and assistant U.S. treasurer.

While at Harrison’s Landing, Va., Butterfield wrote Taps to replace the traditional firing of rifles at the end of military burials.

First played by his bugler, Oliver W. Norton of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, Taps was adopted by both the Union and Confederate armies.

Some historians, however, say Butterfield didn’t compose Taps from scratch, but simply re-wrote an earlier call, known as Scott Tattoo.

Butterfield was born in Utica in 1831, but had a summer residence, Cragside, in his later years in Cold Spring.

He died in 1901 at 70 and was buried at West Point, even though he had not attended the military academy, as Taps was played.

Masterson's grandfather, John Masterson, who died several years ago, served during World War II in the China-Burma-India Theater.

His very proud granddaughter will be carrying his photograph close to her heart when she marches Friday in New York City's annual Veterans Day Parade.

For more about Masterson or to help support her mission, click here.

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