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Martinsville man honors fallen heroes with weekly Taps concert

It's a tradition that dates all the way back to the Civil War and as recent as the tragedy at Sandy Hook, from the battlefield at Gettysburg to the town square in Martinsville:

It's a tradition that dates all the way back to the Civil War and as recent as the tragedy at Sandy Hook, from the battlefield at Gettysburg to the town square in Martinsville: the lonesome sound of a bugler playing Taps - a tribute to the fallen.

There are many bonds in this world, but none are as strong as the bond of family.

"We've got a lot of history here," said Bruce McKee. "Our family actually goes all the way back to the revolutionary war."

It is cemented in life and revered in death.

"Sometimes you don't have a choice but to fight for what you've got. My dad made sure we knew that history and made sure if we had that opportunity to serve that we did serve," said McKee.

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For Bruce McKee that opportunity came December 14, 2012. The murder of 20 elementary students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut led him to answer a weeklong nationwide call to action.

"They wanted all the bugles that could to mobilize for seven days in a row and play Taps at 7:00 pm," he said.

It didn't take long for the sound to summon others to the town square in Martinsville.

"It's a solemn sound. It's a beautiful sound," said McKee.

"It hurts sometimes. You shed a lot of tears when nobody is around," said Minson Groves.

Eventually one time Taps became Echo Taps, and the tribute to a few became a tribute to the many.

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"It's a proud community, A patriotic community," said McKee.

"It means the ones they are playing Taps for are not coming home," said Groves.

The weeks turn to months, the months to seasons and seasons to years, and the names just keep coming.

"150 to 200 names a week," said McKee.

Literally thousands of names have been read here. Most are seemingly anonymous, but not all. Stephanie Ressler brought her family to hear her grandmother's name read.

Even if their loved ones aren't in attendance to hear a name read aloud, McKee said, "I think it's important because it's from my own heart. My family served since the revolutionary war. My dad passed in 1988. He didn't get Taps."

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That's right. The man who has played taps now for 149 consecutive Friday nights didn't play at the funeral for his own father. Because he couldn't.

"I had cancer surgery on my tongue and throat. When they did the surgery, they said you will not speak normally, sing or ever play the trumpet again. God has different ideas of what we can and can't do and I think his plan for me was to continue playing," said McKee.

It's one communities way of paying it forward and one sons way of paying it back.

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"I just hope I'm doing it," he said.

Taps will be played on the southwest corner of the town square in Martinsville for the 150th consecutive Friday, this Friday at 7pm. The reading of the names from all over the country starts at 6:55.

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