Giving Back: Westlake High School Musician Honors Veterans

Last spring, Westlake High School senior Matt Eppele discovered an organization that aligned with his talents and beliefs.

Matt is a volunteer with Bugles Across America (BAA), a non-profit organization based in Illinois that provides musicians to play taps at funeral services for local veterans. BAA was founded in 2000 when Congress passed legislation providing veterans a right to at least two uniformed military personnel to fold the American flag and play taps on a CD player. BAA was founded to provide veterans a live rendition of taps through a volunteer network that stretches to Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

“I felt like this was a very selfless organization,” said Matt, who is a member of the high school Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble I, Pep Band and Orchestra. “I believe every military veteran deserves a proper funeral, and Bugles Across America helps achieve this.”

Matt Eppele plays “To the Colors” at the Westlake Memorial Day Ceremony on May 29, 2017. Watch at

Matt signed up on the website and sat through a one-hour conference to join the organization. When families request a volunteer, an email goes out to BAA members within a 100-mile radius. Members can choose to accept or ignore a “mission.”

Matt has played at two funerals to date – Wallace E. Reigel, Army Air Corps, and Gary M. Smialek, U.S. Coast Guard.

“The people I talked to were very moved by me playing taps,” Matt said, adding that although payment is not expected, both families insisted on paying him for his time.

Matt plans to attend The Ohio State University net fall to study business. He says he will try to continue volunteering while in college if his schedule permits.

Matt was selected as a member of the All-State Orchestra this year, and last year participated in All-State Band. He also received an All-SWC Honorable Mention his sophomore year. At WHS, he also is involved with the WHS bowling team and Latin Club. He volunteered at Westlake Safety Town for seven years and has done volunteer work with the American Red Cross.

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