(PARAMUS, N.J.) -- BY: TOM BROOKSBANK
A Boy Scout has been playing taps every night outside a New Jersey nursing home where more than 100 veterans have died amid the coronavirus crisis and concluded his daily tribute with a special Memorial Day ceremony.
13-year-old Alex Saldana joined the Passaic Valley Elks Lodge Monday for a flag-planting ceremony outside the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus, New Jersey. One hundred American flags were placed on the front lawn as Saldana trumpeted the iconic bugle call, honoring those who have died from novel coronavirus at the nursing home in recent weeks.
"I'm glad I got to play a small part in honoring our veterans during this sad time," Saldana said.
The eighth grader is the bugler for his Boy Scout troop and was trying to find ways to honor veterans in the community. When he heard 37 residents at the veteran's home passed away from COVID-19 complications on April 8 -- just a mile away from his house -- Saldana grabbed his trumpet and began playing.
"Many of their kids and their family members can't honor veterans in a traditional way right now because of the coronavirus," Saldana said. "A tribute to salute their service can go a long way."
Saldana has played outside the home for veterans every night since, hoping to provide some comfort to residents and their loved ones as the deadly virus continues to take its toll.
Over 40% of confirmed coronavirus deaths in New Jersey have been tied to long-term care facilities, according to the state's COVID-19 information hub. Based on those numbers, a staggering one in 18 New Jersey residents in long-term care before the pandemic began are now dead. Nearly 26,000 of the states 90,000 residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.
In the wake of so much devastation, Saldana's tributes help veterans honor the passing of former soldiers.
"He brings tears to people's eyes when he plays," George Osborne said, a veteran who listened in during Saldana's Memorial Day performance. "It's a personal bond that every veteran feels when someone serves, it's a brotherhood."
Memorial Day marked the end of Saldana's daily pilgrimage. He says he still plans to stop by and play outside the nursing home as much as he can, at least once a week.
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