By federal law, the U.S. government must provide uniformed military personnel at a military funeral to play Taps, that haunting melody of 24 notes that invariably brings tears to the eyes when played at the funeral of a fallen soldier. When the available military personnel are not buglers however, they rely on a recorded version of Taps at the funeral.
Recently, when there was no government bugler available to play Taps for a young Marine who died in Afghanistan, a live bugler was there to play at the funeral thanks to Bugles Across America, NFP (BAA). BAA is a nonprofit organization with the mission of providing volunteer buglers to play Taps at veterans’ funerals at no charge to their families. Tom Day, the 72-year-old founder of BAA and a former Marine, proudly played Taps that day. Mr. Day, noting the importance of a live bugler at a military funeral, said BAA volunteers “play with real breath, from the heart.”
INTA volunteer Rick Biagi
of Chicago, Illinois, USA is a trumpet player who found another important way to help BAA—representing the organization on a pro bono basis in trademark matters.
Rick’s passion for trumpet music began at age 8. By high school, Rick was studying with members of the Chicago Symphony. Rick received a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Illinois, and he had been admitted to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, when he decided to stay in his hometown of Chicago to work as a musician. After several years of playing the trumpet at night and working a second job during the day, Rick decided it was time to look for a new career, although he knew he would always continue to play the trumpet. Rick chose the practice of law, another profession to which he brings great passion. Rick attended law school at DePaul University College of Law, graduating in 2001. That same year, he joined the firm of Neal & McDevitt, where Rick is now a partner.
Even though Rick turned to the law, he never lost his love for the trumpet. A self-described “music geek,” Rick regularly visited the blog at www.trumpetherald.com, “the trumpeter’s home on the web” It was there that Rick saw a message from BAA’s founder, Tom Day. BAA was under attack by an individual using domain names that BAA asserted infringed BAA’s marks. The websites in issue offered to provide buglers, for a fee, to play Taps at funerals, and, in blog postings, the operator of the site spoke harshly of BAA and Tom Day.
Finally, the day had come when Rick was able to combine his two passions—trumpet music and trademark law—with his desire to give back to those in need, making Rick the perfect pro bono counsel for BAA when it needed help with this trademark and domain name dispute. Rick’s well-crafted demand letter quickly yielded results. In just under two months, the offending domain names were relinquished and the alleged unauthorized use of BAA’s marks discontinued. “Rick helped us immensely,” says Tom Day. “Without Rick’s help, I wouldn’t have known where to turn. He not only took care of the immediate issue, he even taught this old Marine bugler something about trademarks.”
Rick’s pro bono activities also extend beyond the music industry. He has provided counsel to the Rainbow Hospice, The Theraplay Institute, Active Transportation Alliance, AmeriFace and the Thomas More Law Center. “I have met a lot of people with nonprofit organizations doing great work and struggling to make ends meet,” says Rick. “If I can help in some small way with a trademark or other legal issue so these organizations can focus on achieving their main goals, then I am glad to do it.”
After the BAA matter resolved, Tom Day sent Rick a military bugle as a token of Tom’s appreciation. That bugle now sits on Rick’s shelf in his office as a prized memento and a reminder of all the BAA buglers playing Taps for family of veterans.
BAA currently has over 7,500 bugler volunteers located in all 50 states in North America and growing numbers of volunteers overseas. The need for buglers for military funerals is acute, as the Department of Veterans Affairs is expecting more than half-a-million veterans’ funeral each year for the next 7 years.
Learn more about BAA.
Author: Matt Molash
, Shupe Ventura Lindelow & Olson, PLLC, Dallas, Texas, USA
Pro Bono Committee