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Veteran honors military dead by playing taps — more than 100 times

DENVER -- While many pay tribute to the military men and women who served and have died on Memorial Day, one retired veteran shows his gratitude one note at a time.

It's one day to honor the military dead at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

"This was my grandfather Joseph Lovato," said Jesse Lovato, standing next to his grandfather’s gravesite.

It’s a day their families and friends come to visit.

"I am still trying to get used to him not being here," Bernice Martinez said about her brother Michael Martinez, a Marine who served in the Persian Gulf War and who suffered a post-traumatic stress disorder-related death when he was just 37.

And it’s a day Mark Stallins will play one song -- more than 100 times.

The retired Navy man plays taps for the departed and for their families who still feel the pain.

"It's my way of saying you are not alone. And there are others right beside you, even if you not know who they are," Stallins said.

So he walks row after row at the 214-acre site with more than 122,000 internments -- his trusty trumpet in hand.

"We follow the list. We go around: Next stop, next stop, next stop," he said. "There’s no rhyme or reason.”

His journey is one of gratitude -- a 45-second trumpet solo at a time.

"It's 'I care' and 'I love you' and 'I remember you.' That is what taps is," Stallins said.

The families he meets along the way say his music hits all the right notes.

“We got very lucky. It was very special. It was very honoring for my brother and my family," Martinez said.

"There’s not a higher respect than that. It's absolutely beautiful," Lovato said.

The sound of Stallins' horn rings throughout the cemetery. People stand at attention. It's all about honoring the fallen.

"They don’t care and I don’t care. I want to make sure people that are out here know there is at least one person who can play, who can do this, who are willing to do this to remember them," Stallins said.

He says it’s to remember -- and never forget -- that freedoms come at a cost.

People could make requests for a song through a Facebook event page.

It’s Stallins’ hope to grow today’s event next year with even more musicians playing taps.

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