While scores of veterans die each year in a military community like Charleston, only about a half-dozen buglers are available to honor them, according to Coates. He served at about 75 funerals last year and played taps at about 50 of them.
Coates, 53, is a Navy veteran who works full time as a welder and metal fabricator. He’s been playing trumpet since the third grade and plays taps on the trumpet.
A trumpet has valves, while a bugle does not. Both are hard to play when it’s hot or cold or emotions are running high.
“As a bugler, I have to tune all of the emotion out of it,” Coates said. “More than once I have bugled for friends and acquaintances, and that is hard. Also, it’s hard when the crowd is very emotional. In order to be professional, sometimes you have to mentally leave that service for a while and think about something else, bad as it sounds, because with a friend you want to be a part of it.”