The solemn sounds of taps soon may be heard when the sun sets each evening at Glendale Heights' Veterans Memorial Park, though a bugler will be nowhere in sight.
VFW Post 2377 is launching a fundraising drive Sunday to buy a digital system that detects when the sun is setting and automatically triggers the playing of music through an MP3 device.
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In this case, the device will be set to play taps, the 24 distinct, somber notes commonly performed at military funerals and ceremonies.
If members of the VFW post raise $2,500 to pay for the digital device and the cost to install it, organizers say Glendale Heights will be one of the first communities in Illinois to have an automated taps-playing system.
The plan is to play the song every day instead of just a few times a year during ceremonies at the park.
"Playing taps will add to the ambience and solemn feeling about what the park is all about when you're there at dusk," said Village Trustee Michael Light, who was encouraged to pursue the digital taps system by a resident. "We play taps on Memorial Day. You can see people's eyes tear up when you think of everyone who's been lost."
The digital system is the invention of Profile Systems, a Merrillville, Ind.-based energy management company that helps businesses reduce heating, cooling and other costs.
The firm sells a digital timing device that automatically turns parking lot lights on and off. It's the same technology being used for the taps-playing device, which doesn't have an official name but is referred to as a "taps box," said Guy Wellman, the company's vice president of sales.
"With our system knowing dusk and dawn on Earth every day, (we asked) was there a way to put a song in there and tell (it) to play taps at dusk every day?" Wellman said.
His grandfather, Bill Wellman, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, encouraged the company's engineers to develop the system after he was inspired by a story on the morning news about a Washington man who plays taps on his bugle every night. The elder Wellman works for Whiteco Industries, the parent company of Profile Systems.
He joined the Marine Corps in 1943, and in April 1945 he was sent to the island of Okinawa. He left in June on a hospital ship with other injured soldiers and the bodies of 14 fallen comrades. He distinctly remembers their burial at sea.
"I was near the railing. They played taps. That's something that's stuck in my mind all the time," Wellman said.
After watching the TV news story, Wellman said he wanted to be able to play a recording of taps at the flagpole outside his condominium -- and knew his company had the technology to do it.
"I told the engineers I just want to eliminate the human part," he said.
The engineers developed a small box -- complete with an MP3 player and lighting controller -- that's able to plug into speakers to amplify the sound. It's programmed to turn on at dusk, play taps, then turn off when it's done.
"It knows where on Earth it sits using latitude and longitude," Guy Wellman said. "Daylight saving time is taken care of."
The device also has a volume control, and Glendale Heights officials are promising the nightly playing of taps won't disturb nearby residents.
Some homes are across the street from the park, on the northeast corner of Bloomingdale Road and Fullerton Avenue.
"It's far enough from residents' homes where it would be very, very hard to hear anything," Light said.
He said the system also is equipped to play reveille -- but that's not something the village is interested in.
The village board supports the digital taps system but suggested the VFW post coordinate the fundraising drive to pay for it.
Post Cmdr. Terry House said donations will be accepted at area TCF Banks from July 7 to 31 by writing checks or money orders to "VFW-Glendale Heights Veterans Park."
Bill Wellman said the system is in place on downtown speakers in Valparaiso and memorial sites, cemeteries, parks and museums throughout northwest Indiana.
Other communities in the region also have expressed interest in the system.
If funding is secured, the taps system could be in place late this year in Glendale Heights.
A formal ceremony would be planned for the first digital playing of taps.