The haunting notes of taps from the trumpet of Don Altringer have echoed over Stutsman County cemeteries for more than 60 years.

This year, once again, his Memorial Day activities will pay tribute to his fellow veterans.

"It is an honor and a privilege to play for veterans," he said. "I believe any veteran should be entitled to live taps rather than the recorded thing they do now."

Altringer, now 83, first played taps for Memorial Day activities in 1955. He had just graduated from Wimbledon High School and would enter the U.S. Navy shortly thereafter.

"I blew taps at four cemeteries in the Wimbledon area that day," he said. "... when I was in the Navy, I was a ship's bugler for three and a half years."

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The trumpet he played at Wimbledon 65 years ago still looks like new courtesy of "being rebuilt a couple of times."

The military used bugle calls to communicate with the sailors or troops. There were different calls for getting up in the morning, going to meals and even the arrival of the mail. Taps, along with being played at funeral or memorial services, signaled the end of the day in the military.

Altringer returned to Stutsman County in 1960. While still serving in the Naval Reserve he found a new place to play the bugle.

"When I got out, we formed the Drum and Bugle Corps," he said. "I've been hanging in there ever since."

His time with the Jamestown Drum and Bugle Corps has also built many friendships.

"Donnie is the best guy you'll ever want to know," said Bruce Meikle, a member of the group for 50 years.

Meikle said he continues to participate in the Drum and Bugle Corps because of the camaraderie and for the love of playing music.

"I ain't any good but I love to play," he said.

Gordon Johnson, more of a "newcomer" to the Drum and Bugle Corps with somewhere between 25 and 30 years experience, also said spending time with the other members of the group is important.

"The people in the corps are awesome," he said. "We've become close friends."

Johnson said Memorial Day remains an important date for the group.

"Memorial Day is always important," he said. "That and Veterans Day when we play at the (North Dakota) Veterans Home at Lisbon."

For Altringer, any event that allows him to honor a veteran is important.

"No single event or service sticks out," he said. "For me, every veteran is an honor and privilege to play for."

And he has no intention of slowing down or giving up any opportunities to exercise that privilege.

"I'm 83 years old now," he said. "It is a little more of a challenge than when I was 40."

Altringer said he is up for those challenges. He retired in 2000 from a partnership in a farm credit operation here in Jamestown. He has battled cancer, which is currently in remission, and spends his free time hunting and taking care of the yard. He plans to continue those activities as long as possible, just like playing the bugle.

"I'll probably keep doing this until they have to do it (play taps) for me," he said. "I hope it is not a tape."