Noah Lazzara spends the morning of every Memorial Day in cemeteries.
“It’s really something that I’ve always done, and I’d always like to do,” Lazzara said.
Lazzara, now a college student who graduated from Deerfield High School in 2016, has joined the members of Deerfield-Cambridge VFW Post 9424 every year since he was in seventh-grade, as they visit local cemeteries to honor fallen veterans. After a flag presentation and a gun salute, Lazzara plays taps on the bugle.
Lazzara began joining the VFW’s ceremonies after buying an antique bugle he saw in the window of an antique shop. He’d started playing the trumpet two years earlier and became the bugler for Deerfield Boy Scout Troop 88.
“I realized that it was a really cool thing to get to travel around and honor those who served that way, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Lazzara said.
VFW Quartermaster Arvid Bakken said Post 9424 has been honoring fallen veterans graveside on Memorial Day for the last 10-15 years. Bakken said the Cambridge chapter of the American Legion performed the ceremonies before that.
This year, the group will visit six cemeteries, including Kroghville Cemetery near London, Hauge Cemetery in Deerfield and four in Cambridge: East Koshkonong, Rockdale Lutheran, Willerup United Methodist and the Lake Ripley Cemetery.
“The whole premise of the thing is to memorialize or pay memory or pay respects to those who served our country throughout the history of it. And this is the proper, prescribed way to do it,” Lazzara said.
“I think it’s an important thing to do, that they have a bugler to do these,” he said.
Lazzara just finished his third year at UW-Madison, where he studies biological systems engineering. After about nine years of bugling on Memorial Day, he has no plans to no stop.
“As long as I can play the bugle, I’d like to come back and play with the VFW guys,” Lazzara said.
His continued interest in the ceremonies is music to Bakken’s ears.
“I’m thrilled to death,” Bakken said. “He’s one of the nicest boys you’ll ever want to meet in your life.”
VFW Post Commander Al Bettenhausen said that before Lazzara, the VFW would tap the high school bands for trumpet players. But musicians wouldn’t return year to year.
Lazzara returns to play twice a year, once for Memorial Day and once for the VFW Veterans Day ceremony in London every November.
“He’s dedicated,” Bakken said. “Nice young fellow.”
“I personally can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to do this,” Lazzara said. “They’ve given me a lot, they’ve given me a lot of opportunities, they’ve become friends.”
Memorial Day is a busy one for VFW members. In addition to visiting cemeteries, they join the parade in downtown Cambridge, sell poppies to fundraise for veterans programs and put flags on the graves of local soldiers in nine area cemeteries.
“If we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?” Bakken said.
Bakken served in the military from 1966-68 and Bettenhausen from 1965-67. They both joined the VFW shortly thereafter. They hope locals will come away from this weekend with more understanding of what this holiday is for.
“It isn’t the ones that served, it’s the ones that died,” Bettenhausen said. “We’re just grateful that people support us and the holiday.”
“This is the VFW, it’s their thing,” Lazzara said. “I’m just along to play the bugle.”
According to Bakken, he does it pretty well.
“He’s almost perfect,” Bakken said.