Memorial Day 2024: Bucks County veteran honors other veterans, even in retirement

A Bucks County man embodies the true meaning of Memorial Day as, even in retirement, he continues to serve. He earned his military stripes long ago, and now in his senior years, he is recognized for his solemn duties as a volunteer, playing Taps, time and time again.

"Taps is basically for the veteran and his family. It’s the last goodbye they have for that veteran. I like to make it as reverent and as good as I can make it, for that purpose," Jim McDevitt stated.

During his time in the coast Guard and now in retirement, 84-year-old McDevitt, of Southampton, continues to serve.

"It’s something I know has to be done for the family and I step up and I do that willingly," McDevitt explained. "I don’t let them down. They need to have that done on the last goodbye."

McDevitt is retired from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Philadelphia Police Department. In the last 11 years, he has played Taps at 4,700 funerals, many of them at Washington Crossing National Cemetery.

He says, "A live bugler puts the emotion into the notes that are being played and the family can hear that."

Jim has played the bugle since he was 12. He has played with a nationally recognized drum and bugle corps since 1957. It’s meaningful for him. His presence during a family’s time of grief can be difficult, so he concentrates on playing flawlessly and not choke or tear up.

"I just pick a point beyond everyone, and I just look at that while I play," he explained. "It was written by General Butterworth, as I understand. Both sides took time. Taps was used to clear the dead from the battlefield."

The Washington Crossing National Cemetery holds funerals on most days, paying honor to U.S. veterans Jim and several others may play at several a day.

Honor Guard member, Don Tillotson stated, "Once it’s in your blood and you’re part of this Honor Guard, you can’t give it up."

Jim said playing the bugle for veterans and their families gives him purpose, "I’m just gonna continue to do it until I can’t or they find someone else to replace what I do."