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A melodic tribute to military funerals and ceremonies | Pay It Forward

Tracy Hepner has played Taps on her bugle for thousands of military funerals for nearly two decades

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. — The definition of honor is not taken lightly by Dennis Johnson. Johnson is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Quad Cities honor guard. 

He recognized the hard work of Tracy Hepner, who volunteers to play Taps for military funerals on her bugle. 

“If you realized the time and effort and the money that she goes through to be here and to honor these veterans it makes a difference in our life," said Johnson. 

Hepner has volunteered her talent for nearly 20 years, clocking in thousands of performances during funerals and ceremonies. 

“Overall about 3,026 funerals and I’ve also done several memorial events," said Hepner. That's why she was nominated for the Pay It Forward award, sponsored by Ascentra Credit Union.

Having a live bugle at these events is a tradition that has become rare these days. 

“When I found out that uh some of the people were playing it on cassette tapes, or on their phones, or there’s intercoms in the shelters here... I thought, wow, that’s very impersonal," said Hepner. 

Sometimes Hepner will do up to 8 funerals in one day, which can become emotionally taxing. “Every cemetery has a tree. So I just concentrate on the trees and concentrate on the song. That’s the way I get through it. Sometimes I lose it afterwards. But I try not to look at the family because it’s… it’s very emotional," said Hepner. However, she can see how much it means to those families and the veterans. “It’s my way of paying it forward. Cause I didn’t serve so I guess I am doing the service now," said Hepner. 

Do you know someone that goes above and beyond for his or her community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you Pay it Forward to them. Click here to nominate someone you know.

See previous Pay It Forward award winners:

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