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Playing Taps Never Gets Old for Albert Madden

Retired soldier, 92, travels all over to perform it

Have bugle, will travel

During Madden's 27-year military career (he retired in 1971), he played in or led more than 19 Army bands. He performed at hospitals and bases all over the United States and abroad. And, he was part of a marching band that never marched. Instead the musicians paraded in jeeps three to a vehicle — an unusual addition to many military dedications, memorials and celebrations.

Throughout his military career Madden played taps at hundreds of war casualties' and veterans' burials. He remembers one day in August 1948, when he played at 13 interments in Burlington, Mass. Then he rushed to play at another one in Camden, N.J.

But the highlight of Madden's career happened in September 2010. He was invited to play during a memorial honoring the 3rd Infantry at Arlington National Cemetery. It was the first time he'd played there. "The crowning glory of my career," he says, proudly adding, "I was the oldest bugle player playing on the oldest bugle."

Madden, a member of numerous service clubs, loves to crochet, and is known to spontaneously break into Brazilian dance with his wife, Concala, whom he married in April 2010. "We have a wonderful time," he says.

Madden vows that he will play taps "as long as I can breathe." Because there are fewer and fewer volunteers to play at ceremonies, he occasionally wonders who will play those soulful 24 notes for him when he passes on. Not to worry, he says. "I plan to live to 125."

Karen Westerberg Reyes is a writer in Austin, Texas.

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